Life in a Country Album

2020 winner
Life in a Country Album
Publisher: University Of Pittsburgh Press
Published Date: October 2019
ISBN-13: 978-0822965947

In in her seventh collection, award-winning poet Nathalie Handal reaffirms that she remains an urgent and singular voice in contemporary poetry. Linguistically fluid and geographically expansive, Nathalie Handal’s Life in a Country Album is a haunting hymn of shapeshifting. Intimate and political at once, it is composed from a palette that comprises brief revelations as well as expansive meditations. This question of home and belonging lies at the heart of the collection: Who gets to decide who belongs? Can you be exiled from your own sense of self, or as Handal puts it in Europa Nostra, “Now that we are guests in our bodies, how do we survive?” Though Handal is of many cultures, in Life in a Country Album, she brings this particular Palestinian sensibility to her poems and to her encounters with her many countries and languages of the text. If a bed is a city of teeming dreams then this collection is a world of human possibilities. In its clarity, craft and chimeric language, it is a love letter and admonition mailed by the same stamp.


Judges' Notes on why this book was shortlisted:

Life in a Country Album, the seventh collection from the PalestinianAmerican poet, is most reflective of those essential thematic and stylistic characteristics which render her poetic voice uniquely distinctive. Language here goes beyond linguistic or cultural confines, encompassing a lyricism that embodies fragmentation as well as wholeness. While relaying the deep view of Palestinianness, these poems expand the vastness of disaporic and exilic experiences on universal levels.

Notes by Subhi Hadidi, Judge, Palestine Book Awards 2020
Read the Judges' Notes for all the shortlisted books here.


Reviewed by: Elif Selin Calik

Life in a Country Album is a collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and above all, inspirational. Nathalie Handal’s musings are divided into four regional parts: Album Français, Album Arabe Paris, Album Mediterraneen, and American Album; they cover such diverse topics as books, Bosnian multi-ethnic culture, jasmines of...