I Found One!!

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If you have been following my posts then you know that I am on a mission – to find a book that (for lack of a better description) takes Romeo and Juliet and plants it in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To me it’s a no-brainer. I mean picture it with me:

“Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair [Jerusalem] where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny.

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”

It practically writes itself… no? Maybe not.

Last year I read Ronit and Jamil, which was very intentionally R&J in the middle east. But it fell extremely short for me. You can read all about my disappointment here. Out of my disappointment came my quest. But despite my research I have yet to find anything current. But I did find something.

[Aside: Whenever I see someone one the subway/bus/at the cash register/whatever reading a book, I will always try to see what that book is. If it’s a book I know and love I feel an instant kinship with this stranger (“I don’t know you but I know this book and it’s great so you’re great”). If it’s one I don’t know but it looks interesting, I may at times ask them about it. It may be a librarian thing. It’s definitely a me thing.]

I met a woman at a subway station a few months ago. She was working at the station bodega thing and I was buying a Presto Card. Anyway, she was reading a book which immediately caught my attention. It’s called Habibi, which is the Arabic word for “my darling”. Growing up in Israel you hear this word everywhere. I’ve even been called the female form of the word (habibti) by a couple of my friends.

Habibi, by Naomi Shihab Nye, is a 1997 novel (somewhere between junior and YA) about a Liyana Aboud, a teenage Palestinian-American girl, who moves to Israel/Palestine and (you guessed it) falls in love with Omer, a Jewish boy. That’s what the back cover will tell you. But, as the subject matter requires, there is so much more to the story. It’s about the definition of home, culture shock and clashes, it provides a very important perspective of the situation in Israel/Palestine.

I’ve read a lot of not so enthusiastic reviews of this book since I read it, but for me it was really good. I grew up there and I experienced that time through my narrow lens. And to see another side of a story you know well, to be challenged in your beliefs, is one of the best gifts a book can give you. In my humble opinion, it is a book worth reading.

That said, you will not find it in our catalogue. I tried to purchase it, but was unsuccessful. But this is a good opportunity to discuss a wonderful service we provide – Inter Library Loans. In a nutshell, ILLOs allow you to request a book from another library system as if it were in ours. It’s really easy to do any anyone and everyone is welcome to do so. All you have to do is register here and you will have access to almost any book from any library in Ontario (including Habibi, I checked).

Read away, hibaybi [plural form]!


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