Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Blog
By Jeffrey Wright
Spring 2012 Intern
When Susan Abulhawa’s novel Mornings in Jenin (originally titled The Scar of David) was published in the US in 2010, it created significant attention. Though the novel received generally positive reviews, some objected to its frank descriptions of one Palestinian family’s years of suffering after the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Abulhawa’s life mirrors that of her novel’s protagonists. Her Palestinian parents were made refugees by the 1967 war, and she spent her youth shuttling between Jordan, Qatar, and Palestine under the care of various relatives. She ended up in Charlotte, North Carolina at the age of 13 and was placed in foster care. Unable to read or write in English, the future novelist copied the front pages of newspapers until the language began to make sense.
After studying biology and medicine, Abulhawa wrote her first novel in an effort to understand her childhood and the mixed legacy of her Palestinian heritage. After a trip to Palestine in 2000, Abulhawa founded the NGO Playgrounds for Palestine, which solicits donations from American citizens and companies to help provide places for Palestinian children to play. Even as she works on another novel, this time set in Gaza, Abulhawa has continued her activism.
Mornings in Jenin has just been translated into Arabic by the Qatari branch of Abulhawa’s publishing house, Bloomsbury Publishing. The release of the translation was the occasion for Abulhawa’s appearance at Abu Dhabi’s annual book fair and for this admiring profile in the Emirati newspaper The National. Abdulhawa’s writing appeals equally to Arab and Arab American audiences, and their shared appreciation of her work helps build important bridges between these two communities.