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11 Lives: Stories from Palestinian Exile
March 14 2023

We're thrilled to announce that in October 2022, we translated and co-published 11 Lives with O/R Books

The creative writing workshop that this book is based on was the brainchild of Perla Issa, researcher and senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies. In 2018, she had the idea of advertising a workshop in autobiographical writing to the community of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. As a result of that open call, eleven people were chosen to participate in the twelve sessions of the workshop. They gathered each week in Beirut under the capable guidance of Lebanese novelist Hassan Daoud to share their manuscripts and try out their ideas. 11 Lives: Stories from Palestinian Exile is translated from Arabic and Edited by Muhammad Ali Khalidi. 

The 11 lives given voice here are unique, each an expression of the myriad displacements that war and occupation have forced upon Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948. At the same time, they form a collective testament of a people driven from their homes and land by colonial occupation. Each story is singular; and each tells the story of all Palestinians.

As Edward Said argued in 1984, the object of Israel’s colonial warfare is not only material—seeking to minimise Palestinian existence as such—but is also a narrative project that aims to obliterate Palestinian history “as possessed of a coherent narrative direction pointed towards self-determination.”

In these pages, Palestinian refugees narrate their own histories. The product of a creative-writing workshop organized by the Institute for Palestine Studies in Lebanon, 11 Lives tells of children’s adventures in the alleyways of refugee camps, of teenage martyrs and ghosts next-door, of an UNRWA teacher’s dismay at the shallowness of her colleagues, and of the love, labour, and land that form the threads of a red keffiyeh.

What unites these 11 stories is “the inadmissible existence of the Palestinian people” highlighted by Said. Their words persist, as one contributor writes, “between the Nakba and the Naksa, throughout defeats and massacres, love affairs and revolutions.” The stories of Palestinians in exile are also open-ended, and will continue to reverberate across borders until Palestine is free.

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