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Books

Sharon and My Mother-in-Law: Ramallah Diaries

Thursday 28/December/2017 - 09:44 AM
Sada El Balad


Based on diaries and email correspondence that she kept from 1981-2004، here Suad Amiry evokes daily life in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Capturing the frustrations، cabin fever، and downright misery of her experiences، Amiry writes with elegance and humor about the enormous difficulty of moving from one place to another، the torture of falling in love with someone from another town، the absurdity of her dog receiving a Jerusalem identity card when thousands of Palestinians could not، and the trials of having her ninety-two-year-old mother-in-law living in her house during a forty-two-day curfew. With a wickedly sharp ear for dialogue and a keen eye for detail، Amiry gives us an original، ironic، and firsthand glimpse into the absurdity—and agony—of life in the Occupied Territories.

Paperback: 228 pages
Author: Suad Amiry
Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (September 19، 2006)
Language: English

About the Author
Suad Amiry is an architect and the founder and director of RIWAQ، Centre for Architectural Conservation، in Ramallah. She grew up in Amman، Damascus، Beirut، and Cairo، and studied architecture at the American University of Beirut and at the Universities of Michigan and Edinburgh. Amiry participated in the 1991—1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in Washington، D.C.، and from 1994 to 1996 was assistant deputy minister and director general of the Ministry of Culture in Palestine. She is the author of several books on architecture and was awarded Italy’s Viareggio-Versilia Prize in 2004 for this book. She lives in Ramallah.

Editorial Reviews
"Full of marvelously detailed، colorful human complication، as funny as it is galling and heartbreaking." —Tony Kushner، author of Angels in America

"Sharply، gloriously different... The seemingly casual narrative... works its way into your heart without asking you to hate anyone: just to hate a situation." —The Scotsman

"Powerful.... Extremely funny." —The Sunday Times (London)

"A literary protest done with great wit، skill، and passion. Not only is it really funny but it shows the kind of courage، vision، and humanity needed to bring peace to the Middle East." —Eve Ensler، author of The Vagina Monologues

From Publishers Weekly
Amiry's parents were among the thousands of Palestinians who fled from their homes in 1948; they went to Amman، Jordan، where the author was brought up before attending the American University in Beirut to study architecture. She returned to Ramallah as a tourist in 1981، but then she met Salim Tamari، fell in love، married him and returned to the city، now heavily occupied by Israeli troops. This book is an attempt to illustrate the life of a middle-class، Westernized woman in an occupied territory: the daily anxieties and struggles with curfews، roadblocks، barricades، body searches، gunfire، endless red tape، discourtesy and general harassment;not to mention the less than peaceful presence of a mother-in-law taken in for safety's sake. The account، often surprisingly good-humored (as when Amiry realizes her dog has a Jerusalem passport though she does not)، is vivid but somewhat sketchily based on diaries and e-mails; it gains in immediacy and relevance to current newspaper accounts what it may lack in comprehensiveness. The book was awarded Italy's Viareggio Virsilia Prize، and while the writing is unremarkable، the work serves as an important report from the front. (Oct. 18)

From Booklist
*Starred Review* "It was a Palestinian version of The Bold and the Beautiful." Drawing on her personal diary entries and e-mails، Amiry، an architect living in the West Bank town of Ramallah، captures the farce and sorrow of daily life under Israeli occupation over the last 20 years. Some readers may remember her furious appearance on 60 Minutes in 2003 ("No، this stupid wall has nothing to do with Israel's security....This is the biggest land and water grab in the history of Israel"). But her book is no political tirade. She is laugh-out-loud funny about the soap-opera aspects of daily life in Ramallah. Even as she copes with her teen neighbor and collaborator، she has fun with the kitsch electric Mecca gift he gives her: Is it bugged? Is she paranoid? Then there is her mother-in-law، 91، who moves in after losing all electricity and water in her neighborhood ("Shall I pack my purple dress?" she wonders). The irreverence brings home the bureaucratic absurdity of checkpoints، curfews، barriers، and IDs ("Palestinians from Jerusalem who are Israeli residents but not Israeli citizens with Israeli travel documents"). But the suffering is always there: the reality of displacement، neighborhoods destroyed، interminable lines، shootings، separation، and loss. A prizewinner in Italy، this will reach a wide audience. Hazel Rochman

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