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Stories from Palestine by Anjum Parveen

Stories from Palestine by Anjum Parveen
Book Review 

Anjum Parveen, Academic, SACT, Matiaburj College

Children are thrilled when they read fantasy literature. But it's also important that our children know their history, not just gloss over it but know the bitter and the brutal facts too. History has conflicting viewpoints but reading stories make our young readers critical thinkers. I am happy to send my daughters to a school whose motto is Courage to Know and I hope that the school will nurture them into becoming critical thinkers.
This month I bring you stories from Palestine, 'Sitti's Secrets' written by Naomi Shihab Nye and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter and another one called 'Baba, What Does my name mean?" written by Ebeid Rifk and illustrated by Lamas Jawhari. Both are picture books and can be easily read by 5-10 year old children. Both books are about Palestinian history and heritage seen through the eyes of two young Palestinian girls who have been forced to live the life of refugees due to the forceful Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land. There are no political commentaries or overtones and yet through the discovery of their historical past the child protagonists of both the stories are able to connect themselves with their native land and ancient culture that belong to them and which is also at the centre of their resistance and fight for justice. Mona in 'Sitti's Secrets' visits her sitti (grandmother in Arabic) in a village near Jerusalem. They can not speak each other's language and yet they have the most intimate heart to heart communication using signs, action and music. Mona also comes to know about Sitti's secrets which perhaps no one else knows. A beautiful bond between the granny and Mona that take us back to Palestinian traditions that are hundreds of years old, just like Sitti herself. (I remember during one of the protests by the Palestinians against Israeli occupation, an old woman carrying a placard saying "I am older than your state of Israel").
Saamidah in 'Baba, What Does my Name Mean" is another brave girl who goes on a journey with her Dove of Peace across the state of Palestine, in search of the meaning of her name. With firm determination she travels to the different cities of Palestine Al Quds, (Jerusalem), Bait Lahem (Bethlehem), Areeha, Nablus, Gaza and many more, each with a unique history of its own that holds such memories in the hearts of millions of Palestinians who have been forced to leave their land and live like refugees, just like Saamidah. Saamidah represents the Palestinian spirit of patience and perseverance as her father explains to her.
Both the stories have been 'deliciously' written for Palestinian children to acquaint them with their people, history and culture that has been erased by the mainstream media through negative connotations. But these stories are for all children to learn to sympathise with those who have been deprived of their ancestral. It is only through empathy that we can become conscious of their sufferings and shared grief before it is wiped off from human memory.
More such stories next time. Till then Happy Reading.


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