In order to understand this current moment in Palestinian history, many have been recommending history books, such as Rashid Khalidi’s Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, or Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. And while they are important, meticulously researched tomes detailing the history of the region and providing much-needed context, what we have found most moving at this time is the testimony of Palestinians. Whether it’s journalists on the ground in Gaza risking their lives to tell us what they are seeing and experiencing, or the stories of Palestinian captives finally escaping Israeli imprisonment, or displaced Palestinian families in the diaspora recounting generations of trauma. Their stories have brought home the plight of the Palestinians with searing immediacy to people who previously knew little to nothing about it. Because stories have a way of humanizing us beyond statistics and information.

So here are some of the stories of Palestine, as told by Palestinians.

1. Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad

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A novel by the Sue Kaufman, Betty Trask and Plimpton Prize Award winner Isabella Hammad that follows actress Sonia as she returns to Palestine and takes a role in a West Bank production of Hamlet. On her return, she finds her relationship to Palestine is fragile, both bone-deep and new.

2. Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

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This is a novel in translation in two parts: the first recalls a true story of a 1949 gang rape and murder of a young Arab Bedouin-Palestinian girl by Israeli soldiers, while the second part is a fictional modern day account of life of a Palestinian woman who tries to investigate this incident.

The novel was nominated for a National Book Award for Translated Literature in 2020 and longlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2021. It also won the LiBeraturpreis in 2023, but a few days before the announced date, the ceremony at the Frankfurt Book Fair was indefinitely postponed, citing the sudden escalation in Israel and Palestine, with the organizers emphasizing the need to give space to more Israeli voices. Many prominent writers around the world condemned this deliberate censoring of an important Palestinian voice.

3. Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd

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Mohammed El-Kurd, along with his sister Mona, both residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the West Bank that is besieged by Israeli settlers, have raised awareness about the systematic displacement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and more specifically the threats to their own family, since they were mere children. They remain fierce advocates for the cause even now. The 25 year old Mohammed El-Kurd has released this debut volume of poetry, named after his grandmother, who is older than Israel. This is a fine example of Palestinian resistance literature, and bristles with both rage and tenderness.

4. They Called Me a Lioness: A Palestinian Girl’s Fight for Freedom by Ahed Tamimi & Dena Takruri

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Ahed Tamimi has become one of the most well-known faces of Palestinian resistance, after videos went viral of her confronting Israeli soldiers at the age of 11. Her and her family have been repeatedly targeted by the Israeli regime; Ahed was arrested without charge in recent weeks and released as part of the hostage exchange for the temporary ceasefire, and her father remains under arrest. Ahed has written this powerful, highly-acclaimed memoir with award-winning journalist Dena Takruri. While those who have seen her interviews will expect her searing honesty and unwavering conviction, but what is surprising is her vulnerability.

5. Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

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This debut novel follows the Yacoub family, who are displaced from their homes in Palestine after the Six-Day War of 196, and then repeatedly over generations. It explores the shock of displacement and the cruelty of war.

6. Out of It by Selma Dabbagh

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Art uncannily imitates life in this novel, which opens with Gaza being bombed. The novel follows the story of a Palestinian family in Gaza, and the pains and absurdities of their life, and how people facing the same circumstances can diverge in how they respond to them. Dabbagh has previously published several short stories, but this is her first novel, and it is full of heart and humour.

7. Out of Place: A Memoir by Edward Said

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Many know the towering Palestinian intellectual for his academic writing, so this personal memoir about his childhood spent in Jerusalem, Cairo, and Beirut is a revelation. Its a coming of age story which explores the genesis of a great modern thinker. Said wrote this memoir after finding out about a terminal medical diagnosis, and it’s interesting to know that it was his early years that occupied him the most in his final years.