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Qissat: Short Stories by Palestinian Women

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These fascinating and diverse stories reflect the everyday concerns of Palestinians living under occupation. Writers who were children during the first intifada appear alongside those who remember the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war.

In this volume, Palestinian women offer compassionate, often critical, insight into their society in times of hardship and turmoil, yet look beyond to the warmth of human relations and the hope that better times will come.

Contributors include authors from the occupied territories, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and writers from the Palestinian Diaspora.

Jo Glanville is a journalist and radio producer with a strong attachment to the Middle East and a particular interest in the history of Palestine and Israel. She was lucky enough to live in the Old City, East Jerusalem, in the mid-90s, where she studied, taught, wrote articles for newspapers and volunteered for a human-rights group. Since then she has directed her career towards the Middle East whenever possible.

She has made a number of well-received documentaries, including a series about the Arabian Nights with Robert Irwin for BBC Radio 4, a documentary marking the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacres with Dr Swee Chai Ang and a programme about Israeli and Palestinian paramedics. She has also written for many newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, New Statesman and the Observer, and has contributed her own fiction and essays to a number of anthologies including Hard Lines 3 (Faber).

Editing Qissat for Telegram means Jo can bring together her enthusiasm for both Palestinian culture and the short story, which she considers an underrated form.

188 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 2006

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Jo Glanville

14 books4 followers

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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Aisha (thatothernigeriangirl).
208 reviews42 followers
June 16, 2021
3.5 stars

I actually enjoyed reading this collection and discovered a couple of Palestinian authors whose writing style I really vibe with.
Since some of the stories were translated, it’s only right to point out that I think the translators did a great job delivering the story from Arabic into English 👏🏾
Profile Image for Geoffrey Fox.
Author 8 books42 followers
January 29, 2013
These twelve stories are diverse in every way but one: they are all by women whose lives have been distorted by the loss of a homeland they can call their own, whether their own remembered loss or that of their elders. Some of the authors are exiles too young to have known Palestine and who write in English, for others expulsion is a compulsive, constant memory, while some endure and write from within the occupied territories and in its language. They are all worth reading, to gain an understanding of the costs of exile and occupation, in Palestine and in other parts of the world. Those experiences present people with cruel choices of collaboration, resignation, or resistance, of saving one's livelihood and family or one's dignity. It is never clear which is the truer choice or the more honorable.

To my mind, the most affecting story is by Lina Badr, a novelist and short-story writer in Arabic, living in Ramallah (and active in cultural affairs of the Palestinian Authority), "Other cities." Jordanian-born Umm Hasan ("mother of Hasan"), mother of six, dreams obsessively of spending a few days away from little Hebron, one of the most intensely occupied and harassed towns controlled by the Israelis, to the relative freedom of Palestinian-administered Ramallah; but she is married to a totally unsupportive cousin (Abu Hasan, "father of Hasan") who has not bothered or not dared to get her the necessary Israeli papers to legalize her status in the occupied territories, and she as the wife is not permitted to apply on her own. Passage from one town to the other, though only a few kilometers apart, requires passing through multiple Israeli checkpoints, which will require credentials, and she cannot imagine leaving her six children behind — for shame and because Abu Hasan certainly wouldn't take care of them; how she manages to achieve her modest goal, and incidentally embarrass an Israeli captain who has held up the travelers out of boredom or spite, not only describes some of the multiple indignities under the occupation but also hints at the moral damage it inflicts on the occupiers.
Profile Image for Jo.
625 reviews59 followers
December 21, 2020
An excellent anthology of short stories from Palestinian women writers that doesn’t have a bad story in it. Many of the stories focus on elements that are specific to the Palestinian experience such as the fear and frustration of checkpoints, or those who are fighting or were lost in the conflict, others are about aspects of being a Muslim woman or simply about love and relationships. A few of my favorites were Randa Jarrar’s ‘Barefoot Bridgek’, Samira Azzam’s ‘Her Tale’ and Liana Badr’s ‘Other Cities’ but I found all of them well written and engaging in some way.

Some Favorite Lines

‘Hajji was from Iran but he could just as well have been from Iraq because they both filled their TV channels with pictures of young men blasted limbless or rigid with gas.’ (Me (the Bitch) and
Bustanjii)

‘They put an end to this existence that has sickened me at every moment, and ease nerves deadened by filthy, cheap passions that make beasts of men, their pockets ringing with coins to buy memories of a scarlet night.’ (Her Tale)

‘“My grandfather once told me that when you are young you blame everything. When you mature you blame yourself. And when you get old, you forgive yourself and others.”’(The Tables Outlived Amin)


Profile Image for Pi..
205 reviews5 followers
November 17, 2017
Los libros de cuentos de diferentes autoras son difíciles de clasificar porque viene de todo (bueno y malo). En este caso, la mayoría están bien. Son cuentos bastante directos y cotidianos. Relatando la vida del día a día incluso cuando ese cotidiano tiene eventos extraordinarios (como el inicio de una guerra o todo el drama de los controles de Israel en Palestina).

Hay unos tres cuentos muy buenos.
Profile Image for Kim.
593 reviews19 followers
January 12, 2018
Qissat: Short Stories by Palestinian Women Edited by Jo Glanville

I read this for Book 7. A book set in a country that fascinates you for the Popsugar Reading challenge

These short stories are amazing. They offer slices of life in Palestine as experienced and then told by women. Many of them are not political in any overt way – they deal with childhood memories of being mischievous, of buying shoes and not buying into societies ideas of what feminine is, of being a child in a beautiful country.

Others show how the political situation defines and determines so many actions and activities those of us in freer countries would perform without thought. Imagine spending a whole day travelling a short distance to visit relatively because of the numerous road blocks? Road blocks with what seems like very little purpose other than to show power.

And yet other stories talk very specifically about the awful vortex of death and killing that exists in this part of the world. You kill my child, I will kill two of yours – back and forth until all the children are dead.

All of the stories are powerful in their own way. Not a single one can be read and just flipped past, forgotten, consumed like junk food. They are all important and valuable. Each deserves time taken to read and digest. I will return to them all to reread and reconsider.

In each story the very humanness of the characters is so powerful. When we read of deaths and bombings or see footage on tv it is easy to forget that the victims, and perpetrators, are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, siblings – people just like us with all the same relationships and complications.

These stories show the humanity of the people caught up in the violence, and remind us that it is not politicians who live with the daily fear – it is the people.

In addition, there is a strong feminist thread through these stories. These are women getting on with it, making things happen, surviving often in the most dire of circumstances.

A wonderful collection of stories. Simply wonderful.

In the spirit of fairness, I shall also be reading a collection of Israeli short stories. And I am sure that the same humanity, experiences, fears and disruptions exist on that side of the story too.
Profile Image for Benedicta Dzandu.
32 reviews3 followers
September 25, 2021
‘Qissat’ is a beautiful collection of 12 short stories by Palestinian women living in and outside Palestine. This anthology gives the readers a glimpse into the everyday life of Palestinians.

In navigating endless series of checkpoint and regulation that inhibits travel, the book opens with a child’s honest observations of everyone around her as they journey from Egypt to Palestine. Similarly, in ‘ ‘Other Cities’ which is one of my favorite we see how a determined mother take her children to Ramallah for a visit despite the laws forbidding travelling.

In ‘Pietà ‘ the narrator meets an acquaintance who has accepted what has happened to her without complaining or showing emotions.(*cried*)

In other stories, we see how a teenage girl loses her innocence after the constant threat of violence and chaos, how friendship is ruined between an idealist and a dreamer, how a young girl liberates herself from pain and how a grieving father watches his son being hailed as a supposed Martyr.

There are other sensual stories that centre on sexual Rebellion, Femininity, female desires and the hypocrisies underlying cultural values and morals.

My favorite ‘May God Keep Love in a Cool and Dry Place’ paints a very beautiful portrait of marriage where love is absent and present.

Most of the stories focuses on fear based on lived experience, Death, love, home, daily humiliation, and loss of income

There is a story for everyone. I really enjoyed reading this book and the Translators did an amazing job. I highly recommend it. Thank you to @saqibooks for making such an important book accessible.
Profile Image for Okie.
246 reviews18 followers
January 28, 2018
I'm also reading this for the 'Around the World' book club on Facebook. This book is a collection of stories by Palestinian women. Many are from Israel, West Bank, or Jordan. The stories vary quite a bit, most can be considered 'slice of life' stories.
If you are not from the Middle East, or are not familiar with Middle Eastern culture, it helps a lot to take the time to read the introduction. There is a lot of explanation there that will help you understand what others from that culture might know intuitively. The title of one of the stories, 'Dates & Bitter Coffee' would have gone right over my head without that introduction. It also helps to go over the glossary, too.
A very interesting book giving a small view of another culture. I enjoyed the chance to see things from a different perspective. My apologies, by the way, if any or all of my explanation falls short or misses critical cultural points.
Profile Image for N.otabene.
182 reviews1 follower
May 19, 2021
After that came another checkpoint, then another. Each time they had to wait in a long line of cars under the scorching sun. The Israelis would start a security search, stop several cars, and then sit there and do nothing for a long while before resuming their searches.
At the next checkpoint their yellow Ford sat immobilised among the stopped cars. It seemed that the soldiers were intent on checking not just ID cards but every cell of every hair on their skins. The passengers waited stoically.’

This is one of daily occurrence for people under the siege in Palestine 🇵🇸. Qissat is a compilation of short stories written by Palestinian women from everywhere on the globe. There’s story of checkpoints, the treatment of soldiers towards the locals, oppressions , fear of their loved ones , and their dream of freedom one fine day from the occupation of the Israelis.

Profile Image for Thomas Hale.
600 reviews17 followers
May 18, 2021
A really nice short story collection where I enjoyed every entry. There are many that feature themes of bureaucracy, looming oppression and violence; just as many are about family or love, and the power of community. As the editor's preface notes, all of them seem to mention shoes in some way, as a metaphor for autonomy or a way to explore gender roles. As might be expected from a collection all by women, sexual politics and social norms feature strongly throughout, as female characters embrace or reject their place in the world. I particularly liked Naomi Shihab Nye's "Local Hospitality", Randa Jarrar's "Barefoot Bridge", and Samah al-Shaykh's "At The Hospital".
Profile Image for Kayla Reynolds.
77 reviews4 followers
January 21, 2018
Some of these stories were very nice informative and thought provoking. Others I just did not get or were so short that it seemed like nothing happened. There were a couple stories in here that I would read again though - The tables outlived Amin, A single metre, and My shoe size were very well done and I recommend this book for those stories alone.
22 reviews2 followers
February 24, 2018
It's a fabulous collection of short stories written by women in Palestine! These are various stories on courage, love, despair but more importantly dealing with personal struggles and standing up for yourself in the toughest of situations! It makes you feel grateful for the life you are living today! A must read of you are a fan of short stories and like learning about different cultures.
Profile Image for Crazytourists_books.
438 reviews42 followers
October 1, 2021
I am not sure if this makes sense, but this book wasn't what I expected but at the same time I don't know exactly what I expected. Three of the stories really stood out for me:
"May God Keep Love in a Cool and Dry Place" by Adania Shibli
"Her Tale" by Samira Azzam and
"My Shoe Size and Other People's Views on the Matter!" by Nibal Thawabteh
49 reviews3 followers
January 19, 2018
All were stories written by women. The stories show the trauma that residents must go through under the settlers or how people have had to migrate to make something of their lives. Heart rending tales of the human condition under trying circumstances. Its a must read.
Profile Image for Ashika Sreekumar .
116 reviews12 followers
July 28, 2021
What I liked- good, accessible writing, range of stories, a glimpse of everyday life of Palestinians in Palestine and outside of Palestine.
Profile Image for Poonam.
7 reviews
December 8, 2021
Wonderful collection, very varied stories. There are stories here which are like a master class in short story writing. Highly recommend.
23 reviews
July 1, 2011
Poignant. Some of the stories really transport you. So many shared experiences across vastly differing realities.
Profile Image for Lana.
238 reviews1 follower
April 12, 2016
A great collection of stories - a great variety and some common themes running through the stories.
Some of the stories really stick with you.
Profile Image for Sarah.
59 reviews
May 13, 2021
This was an interesting overall read. My favourite short stories were; Umm Kulthoum at Midnight by Nathalie Handal and The Tables Outlived Amin by Nuha Samara.
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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