Native: Dispatches from a Palestinian-Israeli Lifeby Sayed Kashua, Grove Press (2016)
When novelist and columnist Sayed Kashua announced in 2014 that he and his family would be leaving Jerusalem for the US, the announcement was a minor blip in a summer of death and turmoil in Palestine.
Amid the carnage of more than 2,000 dead wrought by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and vicious attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, the despair of a writer — a Palestinian citizen of Israel who famously writes in Hebrew — might seem a drop in the ocean.
But after almost a decade of columns written by Kashua for the liberal-left Israeli newspaper Haaretz, his departure symbolized the death of an experiment in optimism.
As Kashua himself admits, he was berated by both anti-Zionist Palestinians and Zionist Jews for writing in Hebrew — the “language of the oppressor” to some, to others a pristine tongue reserved only for Jews. He has been seen as insufficiently political and as making light of the occupation.
Kashua’s argument is that his columns and other writings — among them novels, films and a successful TV show, Arab Labor — were a place to “apologize, cry out, be afraid, implore, hate and love — but above all to look for hope.”
His latest book is a selection from eight years of his Haaretz columns, from 2006 to 2014. In Kashua’s characteristic self-deprecating, sarcastic and closely observational style, the columns are a brilliantly written, dry and devastating record of life for one family who, in the end, would just like to be “normal.”
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