Like a lot of people, I am emotionally attached to my house: the pergola and outhouse my son built for me, the tiles and sink I made myself, the thousands of daffodils we’ve planted over the years, the way the sun falls across the kitchen floor in the late afternoon, and the many memories that greet us each day, so when I try to imagine what it would be like to have our home suddenly taken away, to be forced to flee, my mind refuses. No! How could I bear the loss?
In this moving biography of the Palestinian poet A Mohammed Ali, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, Adina Hoffman describes just this and more. Not only did Ali’ s family lose their home, they lost their entire village. They were never able to return to their own place, but they were among the few who were able to at least return to a spot in their former country.
Amazingly, this is a book without bitterness and that is because Ali is a man without bitterness despite a lifetime of hardships. When he was a mere child, he worked long hours to earn money to support his family. Indeed, he provided his family their main financial support throughout his childhood. To this day, he sells souvenirs in a little shop in Nazareth.
A voracious reader, A Mohammed Ali loved poetry and literature from his earliest years. He loved to push himself to learn, to attend readings, to escape into the world of words. As terrible as the loss of his home and village was, to me it seems even more troubling that in the first years of the Occupation, books in Arabic were not allowed. If A Mohammed Ali managed to obtain a book, or a friend did, they would painstakingly copy it for themselves and pass the original on to others to copy, and in this way keep literature and reading alive. It was not until he was in his fifties that he began writing the powerful poetry that has brought him international recognition.
Whatever your views on the Palestinian and Israeli situation today, you will want to read this book. for, as in all conflicts, in the end, it is the experience of individuals that matters. Posted by Suzy.