I'm midway from Birzeit to Ramallah, at the Israeli army checkpoint at Surda. No one knows how long our bus will stay here. An army jeep is parked sideways to block the road. Soldiers in another jeep look on with their guns. They are ready to shoot. A barrier that punctuates tires stands near the stop sign. I regret that I chose to sit up front.
So begins Ibtisam Barakat's powerful memoir Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood. That passage takes place in 1981 when the writer was teenager, but book's main story concerns a much younger Barakat and her family during and immediately after the Six-Day War of 1967. Palestinian residents of the West Bank, they evacuated to Jordan, later to return to a different life entirely.
What is it like to grow up in a war zone? What does it mean to be a refugee? How can you leave the only home you've ever known? At turns sad and hopeful, Tasting the Sky answers these questions by documenting one young girl's experiences. Highly recommended for readers aged thirteen and older.
Ibtisam Barakat now lives in the United States. She first came here to work as an intern at The Nation, and you can read a recent interview with her at that magazine's web site.