Book Review: In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story January 25, 2015 23:00
Reviewed by Sara Powell
By Ghada Karmi, Verso, 2002, 451 pp. List: $16; AET: $11.
Like Edward Said’s Out of Place, Karmi’s memoir is a story of loss and alienation, but it is also a story of growth, adaptation and reclamation. I cried when I read the first page, and I cried again at the end. In the pages that depicted Karmi’s life in between, however, I traveled with her back to her early days, when the incomprehensible events of 1948 punctuated her childhood bliss. Her ensuing exile to Damascus, at first painful, soon evolved into more of an extended family reunion; testimony of a child’s resilience. When only the nuclear family moved to England, however, where her father could find work with the BBC’s Arabic serivice, Karmi was exiled once again, and once again she adapted.
In Search of Fatima recounts the story of a little girl who doesn’t understand, an adolescent anxious to fit in, and a proud young woman reclaiming her identity. It is also the story of an old nation, besieged by outside forces, ripped apart and forced to adapt. But the nation, too, ultimately recovers its pride and reclaims its identity as it attempts to reclaim its land.
A young woman bought this book from me at a conference recently. She was Palestinian, she told me, but her passport was Jordanian, and her Palestinian parents insisted that Jordan was where she had been born, and that therefore she was Jordanian. But she knew she was not. She now lives in the U.S.—still not at home. She had gravitated to the perfect choice, I felt. This was the book for her—and for all Palestinians who have felt the alienation of homelessness and the diaspora, as well as for those who somehow managed to remain in their homeland. It is also, however, for readers who have felt any kind of exile when they had to adapt to a way of life unlike home, for those who have struggled to find their place in the world, for those who would like to know what it is really like to be a Palestinian wrenched from your home or watching your history being systematically eradicated as though you never existed. In other words, this is a book to read.