The announcement of this year's Palestine Book Awards shortlist coincided painfully with the Israeli offensive, Operation Protective Edge, an assault which has left to date over two thousand Palestinians massacred.
Gaza Writes Back, a collection of short stories from young writers in Gaza, provides us with a vibrant heartrending and poignant narration of the lives of the Palestinian people, far from the T.V screen, capturing a glimpse of the actual consequences of Israeli attacks on the Strip , away from simply reporting causalities and fatalities.
Written after Operation Cast Lead, the three week armed conflict which left just under 1,500 Palestinians dead, the stories provided a voice for the thousands of stories that unfolded in Gaza at that time. The stories focussed on the physical impact and losses, as well as the psychological trauma that they continue to suffer.
The stories are harrowing yet hopeful. The stories suggest a glimpse of innocence, yet at the same time, are actually much older than their years. Through these stories, the readers live the horrors and dreams of the Palestinians at an emotionally raw level.
The fast paced stories with swift endings are perhaps a reflection of Gaza's reality, as uncertainty engulfs the population's lives. The collection often left me in tears, a painful wrench to the heart with every story you live their pain acutely, realising that the stories have one ending, one finality; death.
Despite it, despite the nature of the stories, and knowing that there could only be one possible ending, with each story, hope blossoms anew, the will for life, the existence that is resisting. Written with eloquence sharp as a knife, the stories remain with you for a long time. What shines through clearly through the writings, despite coming from a variety of young authors around the world from different walks of life, is the insistence of resistance, continuing with their struggle.
Definitely worth a read, compelling and brilliant in its simplicity, a window is opened to lives that we so rarely hear about.