Hatim Kanaaneh

Book review of Ramzy Baroud, My Father Was a Freedom Fighter, Gaza’s Untold Story, London & New York: Pluto Press, 2010

My deeply imprinted spatial awareness of Palestine has always included rural Galilee, centered on my home village, Arrabeh, with such added urban images as the marketplace of Nazareth, Acre or Jerusalem. Beit Daras and Nuseirat refugee camp are now part of my Palestine, thanks to Ramzy Baroud’s account of the life, mostly in exile, of one of Beit Daras’s sons, Mohammad Baroud. Mohammad is just another human being with his share of joyful and sad moments. But he is also a Palestinian refugee with the run-of-the-mill Palestinian refugee’s experience of struggle, hope, sacrifice, loss, misery, disappointment and unfulfilled dreams of return. Except that the image Ramzy draws of his autodidact intellectual and inventive but contrary father is so intimate and so realistically human, with all that the term implies of excesses, shortcomings, and humor, that it is almost touchable on the pages of the book. By the time I finished reading his life story, the typical Palestinian saga, shaped and constantly impinged by violence initiated, maintained and reinforced at every turn of the road by events beyond his control, he is close enough to me for tears to stream down my face and for me to return to the portrait on the first page of the book to plant a kiss on his forehead.

 

Adina Hoffman writes in a gripping rich language and with a charming poetic flare. Her avid documentary precision makes her obvious love for the subject of her biographical account and for his family, his surroundings and his people almost suspect, were such evil thoughts not rendered meaningless by her fidelity to the deeper nuances of Taha Muhammad Ali’s deceptively simple and un-classical poetry.

Since high school, writing has been my way of dealing with crises and with the imponderables of the ebb and flow of life. Together with gardening, it has been my psychotherapy. Whenever a major issue weighed heavily on my mind, whenever I wanted to maximize the pleasure from an experience I enjoyed, to savor the aftertaste of an achievement or to lick the wounds of a defeat, I would steal time from my busy schedule to sit in a quiet corner and write. I would read each piece I wrote after I had finished it and then I would put it away never to look at it again.