Amiry, Suad. SHARON AND MY MOTHER-IN-LAW: Ramallah Diaries. Granta Books. 2005. London, UK

It is hard to imagine that there can be humour about and in a brutal war and occupation, but Amiry proves me wrong and shows again the amazing resilience of the Palestinian people. As someone else once said about her tragic life, “if I can´t laugh about it, I will cry all the time”. Maybe humour helps one through the bad times — certainly it helped Amiry cope with her somewhat senile mother—in—law who worries about potted begonias, the garbage and marmalade in the middle of an Israeli invasion.

Suad Amiry Book Review

One of the 600 checkpoints that control Palestinian freedom of movement that Amiry endures whenever she leaves Ramallah. Photo ©: Theresa Wolfwood, 2008.

“The diaries, which span 1981-2004, begin with my journey away from my mother and Amman, the city where I grew up and had lived all my life till then, to Ramallah, a town under Israeli occupation. The trip, which was meant to be for six months turned into a lifelong journey. In Ramallah, I lived, worked, fell in love, married and acquired a mother—in—law.”

The diaries also span major events in Palestinian history — the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel, the Gulf War, the Oslo peace accords and two Intifada. All while Amiry tries to teach architecture, study building preservation and is constantly harassed by soldiers at checkpoints as she and her husband try to live a ´normal´ life. And she is surrounded by a neighbour of real characters whose daily life is part of her life. Her descriptions make them all into real people we can imagine knowing and sharing our lives with.

Suad Amiry

Internet photo of Suad Amiry.

She is driven by anger at the humiliation and violence around Palestinian life, but she also has time for compassion and caring for neighbours and friends, even their pesky children, and yes, her mother—in—law who she rescues from her tank—surrounded home and takes her to her own home. As she says though, she may forgive Ariel Sharon for the forty—two day curfew but she will find it hard to forgive him for the obligation of caring for Um Salim.

Some how throughout the book comes a vivid and immediate portrayal of the never ´normal´ life Palestinians are forced to live; Amiry brings it alive and makes it more believable than most scholarly or journalistic accounts by male writers. She lives the personal and it is political.

I saw the play based on the book, before I read it; I enjoyed the book far more, particularly as the reader can imagine more clearly the thought and actions of Amiry in all her predicaments and dangerous times.

Her account of getting her dog a Jerusalem passport so that she can enter the forbidden city as her dog´s driver is worth the price of the book alone. Her feisty dealings with officials and soldiers are truly awesome (as my young friends would say)

But in the end it is still tragic. Amiry and her friends make a dangerous trip to Nablus, the beautiful old Ottoman city and she learns about the death and destruction wrought by the barbaric Israeli invasion in 2002. I connect with her, as if we are side—by—side, when I see this memorial in 2008 to those who died as she wept. Humour helps with the coping, but only courage and persistence — and our solidarity — will help solve the situation.

Filed under Book Reviews, Suad Amiry