By Asmaa al-Ghoul and Selim Nassib
Translated by Mike Mitchell
October 2018. Hardcover and Paperback. Ebook also available.
$28.95 | 9780998777023 (hc)
$18.95 | 9780998777054 (pb)
Gaza has always been rebellious . . . stubborn, addictive. I’m her daughter, and I look like her.
Asmaa al-Ghoul is a Palestinian journalist who grew up in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. Her book offers a rare view of a young woman coming into her own political and secular beliefs amidst the region’s relentless violence. She has been called “too strong minded,” frequently criticized for not covering her hair and for being outspoken. As a journalist and activist, she has led demonstrations and been vocal in her opposition to Hamas and Fatah, which has led her to family strife, imprisonment, brutal interrogations, death threats and attacks.
A Rebel in Gaza is Asmaa’s story as told to Franco-Lebanese writer Selim Nassib over meetings, phone calls, Skype, and even texts during the 2014 Israeli siege of Gaza, when she was locked in the “open air prison” that her homeland had become. Both determined and dedicated to its liberation through writing, education and culture, she paints the sensory portrait of the native country she passionately loves, which over years has become a cauldron of wars and fundamentalism.
A vocal advocate of democratic reform in Gaza, Al-Ghoul says that Hamas’ repressive policies hinder the national aspirations of Palestinians and peace with Israel. […] A fierce advocate of women’s rights, some of Al-Ghoul’s most vocal opponents are religious Muslim women. She says that Gaza’s secular and Islamist camps both have strong female contingents, and that “this is healthy, to see all these voices in the same small area.” But Al-Ghoul’s criticism of Hamas does not make her pro-Israel. She recalls watching her father being beaten by Israeli soldiers in the first intifada, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, as the rest of the family hid in the bathroom. “I was fasting and we were crying a lot,” she said. “My mouth gets dry now when I remember that day.” […] Al-Ghoul says she eschews violence and hopes one day to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians. […] Ultimately, though, she looks to her writing to sustain her.
– JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency)
Fierce and defiant, Al-Ghoul’s book is as much a celebration of Gazan resilience in the face of raging internal and external conflicts as it is of one woman’s life-affirming strength of will. An eloquent, provocative, and timely memoir.
– Kirkus Reviews
Asmaa embodies all oppressions, all possible occupations. She has a spontaneity whereby nothing calculated; all of that entails risks for her, by the way. That’s what moved me most, the story she gave me: she never does anything premeditated. She told me, ‘I’m braver than myself.’ Her memoir is dominated by a sense of freedom that has absolutely nothing self-pitying. […] Her testimony, in the time in which we live, puts her in the clan of resistance. She is for and with ordinary people. Because she lucidly reports their reality, the perspective she offers on this part of the world becomes all the more human and necessary.
– interview with coauthor Selim Nassib in Le Droit
Rebellious but humble. […] With A Rebel in Gaza, Asmaa al-Ghoul delivers through the pen of Selim Nassib a poignant story. From Gaza to Cairo, via New York and even Seoul, where she will become friends with Mahmoud Darwich, they invite the reader to question assumptions, to open visible and invisible borders. This book is also a declaration of love.
– Agenda Culturel
The story of her life, translated from Arabic to French, is above all that of a struggle for freedom in the land of dual occupation: Israeli and Islamist.
– La Croix
In Gaza, the intimate and the political are bound together, one does not go without the other. One can not imagine, living in France, the hell that life can be in Gaza for a free woman. To overcome it requires extraordinary willpower and courage, because Asmaa al-Ghoul has received and still receives an incredible number of threats. […] A political but at the same time sensual book, intersected by the glow of guava trees and olive trees, the scent of strong tea and jasmine.
Asmaa al-Ghoul is a Palestinian journalist and author. Born in 1982 in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and the eldest of nine siblings, Asmaa grew up in a society dominated by political strife, corruption and male chauvinism, but also by an incredible humanity. Described by the New York Times as a woman “known for her defiant stance against the violations of civil rights in Gaza,” Asmaa al-Ghoul is currently living in Southern France working on her next book, while maintaining a large social media following on her self-styled channel, where she has delivered some of her most important breaking news. She has reported and authored articles for, among others, the Washington D.C.-based Al Monitor, Al Ayyam, Al Quds, Amine, and opened the Palestinian office for the Emirati magazine Woman of Today. At the age of 18, Al-Ghoul won the Palestinian Youth Literature Award. In 2010, she received a Hellman/Hammett award from Human Rights Watch, aimed at helping writers “who dare to express ideas that criticize official public policy or people in power.” In 2012, Al-Ghoul was awarded the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation. She works for Lebanon’s Samir Kassir Foundation, which lobbies for media freedom.
See also: Palestinian woman breaks taboo to cycle across Gaza strip by The Observers, a collaborative site of France 24.
Photo: Fares Al Ghoul, 2014, Rafah
Selim Nassib was born in Beirut in 1946. He is a journalist for Libération. A connoisseur of the Middle East, he is the author of the novels I Loved You for Your Voice and The Palestinian Lover (Europa Editions). He lives in Paris.
Photo: Stefano Leone