Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review: Mornings in Jenin, by Susan Abulhawa

Mornings in Jenin is a very good book. It isn't, however an enjoyable book.

Mornings in Jenin follows a Palestinian family through four generations -- during multiple conflicts with Israel. At the beginning of the novel, it's 1948, the Arabs are cast out of their homes and put in a refugee camp called Jenin. A new Israel is created. The story continues for over 50 years, continually returning to Jenin, which is still a refugee camp.

It's a sad story of love, family, horrible brutality, and lots of loss. The writing is beautifully descriptive, and the reader gets are real sense of the Palestinian way of life.

Mornings in Jenin is unique, I think, in that it is sympathetic to the Palestinians. Our main characters are Palestinian. You must realize, though, that this is a book about individuals (fictional), not about politics. We don't hear much (although there is some) talk about governments, negotiations, and treaties. Since much of the story is told through a child's eyes, the politics aren't clear. And that's OK.

We know there are two sides to every story. Atrocities were (and are) committed by both sides. I did appreciated the POV of the Palestinian's though. Being from the United States, we are definitely bent to side with Israel. And that's really all I want to say about politics.

What I really got thinking about while reading this book (other than the horrible losses these people suffered) was about vengeance. Both sides retaliate over and over again. Something is bombed that kills 15 Israelis. A couple weeks later, 13 Palestinians are killed. A couple days later, 22 Israelis are killed, and so on. I know vengeance is a sin, but we all feel that. If my entire family were murdered, I would definitely want vengeance! But I'd want to take down the perpetrators. I don't understand how senselessly murdering innocent people -- women and children--no matter what their race would make one feel better about losing one's own family. Yet, this seems to be the way things are dealt with in these cultures. I don't get it. Attack the army base. Attack the seat of government. But a school? How can that make you feel better?

The characters in Mornings in Jenin are sympathetic, even with their cultural differences. Another thing that stuck me is that kids are the same everywhere. They need to play. Love is the same everywhere. People take risks to be with those they love. There are many universal truths that shine in the background of this compelling story.

The writing is sophisticated, and there are many characters. At first it's hard to keep them apart, especially because the same character can be called different names. Something like calling someone Mom once, and then calling them by their given name. Only in another language. There is a glossary in the back which helps. If you are interested in this culture, and this (continuing) global conflict, I highly recommend Mornings in Jenin. Sophisticated high school readers who are interested will also enjoy this one.

Published by Bloomsbury, 2010
Purchased eBook
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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1 comment:

  1. I just checked this out from the library and I'm excited to read it. Looks like it will be very thought-provoking.


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