book review: Tasting the sky

title: Tasting the sky: A Palestinian childhood

author: Ibtisam Barakat

date: 2007; Ferrar, Straus and Giroux

non-fiction; biography

I didn’t plan to read two war stories back to back, but they made for quite a sobering weekend. Tasting the sky is Barakat’s recollection of the wars of her childhood, of her family being displaced to Jordan, soldiers overtaking their home and her parents struggles to keep their family together. Her childhood memories are free of the bitterness that most adults would have of a homeland that is invaded and occupied. Rather, we see the reliance of communities who learn how to make to, how to depend upon one another and how to keep going.

Despite the fact that Israeli soldiers practice maneuvers daily outside her home, Barakat and her brothers still want to play. They’re¬†mischievous, inquisitive and silly just like children everywhere. Barakat clings to letters and to school, perhaps through her parents she learned at an early age how important education would be in giving her a new life. She ended up with a degree in English literature from Birzeit University in the West Bank. She learned how to weave words into stories we want to hear.

I know that my father does not really want to put down my schooling, especially because of the way he treats the word chair, the only word in English he knows. He says it with pride, moves it around in his speech as though to gain a better view of thinks. He sits on it like it’s a throne. Yet, it is a lonely chair. My love for language and words seems to come between us. It takes away his authority over me. The books, not he are my references.

Even is saying that, Barakat worshiped and admired her father as a child, much like Joseph admired his in Warriors. While the two books are both about about the lives of innocent bystanders being invaded by war, there are few comparisons between the two stories. The experiences of the characters are totally different, one fiction one non-fiction. The most important similarity in the two stories is the resolve of the main characters to never forget the experience of war.




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