Books for Palestine, an auction aimed at raising emergency funds for Palestinian kids in need, has generated $86,000 for the Middle East Children’s Alliance and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.
The auction was conceived of by co-organizers Zaynah Qutubuddin and Rebecca Podos following the outbreak of clashes between Palestinian and Israeli forces to help Palestinian children who were victims of the fighting. “We felt helpless,” Qutubuddin said. Past auctions like Kidlit for Christchurch and Books for Hope for Covid-19 relief in India inspired them to do something.
“We began by reaching out to Sheba Karim, who lent us her invaluable expertise gained from organizing Books for Hope, and pointed us in the right direction,” Qutubuddin explained. The result was Books for Palestine, a virtual auction which was held on June 1 through 4. After posting to Instagram, the group called on authors, agents, illustrators, and other publishing professionals to donate what they could, be it signed books, consultations, or just about anything that they would like to offer.
The reaction was immediate and impressive. “Watching a groundswell of authors, agents, editors, booksellers, illustrators, and many book industry workers come together to donate, promote, and bid on Books for Palestine has meant the world to me and my family,” said Hannah Moushabeck, editor at Interlink and a consultant for the auction.
Donations arrived from a number of bestselling and award-winning authors, including Holly Black, Frederick Joseph, Emily X.R. Pan, Aisha Saeed, Sabaa Tahir, and more. “It felt like a fun bazaar for a good cause where there was something for everyone, and every single item received bids,” Qutubuddin said. As of June 21, with a few bids still to be confirmed, the auction amassed more than $86,000. It broke down to 692 auction items and 1,508 participants total.
The donations will be administered to both the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (approximately $52,000) and the Middle East Children’s Alliance ($32,000). Some of the more popular items included a three-night retreat at the Highlights Foundation, a signed FairyLoot special edition copy of S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy, and a query/20-page critique by literary agent Joanna Volpe. “A few of us were in a group chat together watching the battle of the bids,” Qutubuddin said. “We were particularly excited over the 100-page manuscript critique, query critique, and phone call with Eric Smith!” That item in question raised upwards of $6,150.
The sheer number of items included creative choices like the chance for someone to name a character in a book, curated reading lists from booksellers, and book clubs with acclaimed authors. “The most rewarding takeaway by far has been the number of people who have publicly put their name to an organization that has ‘Palestine’ in the title,” Qutubuddin noted. Donations arrived not only from the U.S. but from countries such as South Korea and Brazil.
“More than anything, it made me proud to be a lifelong voracious reader who grew up to be part of the book community,” said Haneen Oriqat, author and consultant for the auction. “I cried when the final amount raised was announced,” said Jackie Khalilieh, also a consultant for the auction.
By all accounts, the Books for Palestine effort was a testament to allyship, in the form of raising awareness and uplifting voices through books. “This only reinforces my belief that book people are the best of us and often on the right side of history,” Moushabeck said.
This article has been updated to put the focus on the fundraising initiative.