for Tasting the Sky
by Ibtisam Barakat
Ibtisam Barakat grew up in Ramallah during the late 1960s and 1970s. With a poet’s gift for acute observation and expression, she chronicles her early childhood in this riveting memoir. When the Six Day War erupted in early June of 1967, preschool-aged Ibtisam, her two older brothers, and her parents became refugees along with thousands of other Palestinians, making a harrowing flight from Israel to the relative safety of Jordan. When they are finally given permission to return to Ramallah, her family does so both eagerly and anxiously. They try to return to the rhythm of their daily life, but it has been altered forever. Ibtisam is aware of her mother’s fears and the strain on her family even as she and her brothers experience the more typical joys and sorrows that go hand-in-hand with childhood. In recounting these times, Ibtisam seamlessly weaves together the ordinary and the extraordinary, from her fascination with letters and the excitement of learning to read to the dangerous thrill of playing near the Israeli soldiers who trained not far from their rural home outside Ramallah. The narrative is framed by several of the author’s poems, and by chapters set in 1981, when teenage Ibtisam is “midway from forgetting to remembering.” These chapters reveal a life filled with challenges both typical of adolescence (tensions with her mother) and far beyond what most teen readers in the U.S. have experienced (detention by soldiers, and the very real fears that her city may be under siege). They clearly mark a point of transition between the little girl she was, resilient and loving and eager to read and write and learn, and the woman whose adult understanding—still openhearted but no longer innocent—informs a narrative grounded in that little girl’s perspective on all that was happening to and around her, from the haunting to the beautiful. (Age 13 and older).
CCBC Choices 2008. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2008. Used with permission.
Barakat’s harrowing, poetic memoir follows one Palestinian family during the four years subsequent to the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel. Unable to tie her shoe the night her family flees the Israeli bombing of their home in Ramallah, three-year-old Ibtisam is left behind. After one terrifying night, she finds her family, who must now live as refugees until they are allowed to return to their occupied homeland. Sustained by her love of words, symbol ized by Alef, the first letter of the Arab and Hebrew alphabets, Barakat uses child-centered metaphors to describe events either horrific or joyous and to voice her passionate commitment to peace and healing. mac
Bridges to Understanding: Envisioning the World through Children's Books. © USBBY, 2011. Used with permission.
Winner, Arab American National Museum Book Award for Children's/YA Literature, among other awards and honors.
"When a war ends it does not go away," my mother says."It hides inside us . . . Just forget!"
But I do not want to do what Mother says . . . I want to remember.
In this groundbreaking memoir set in Ramallah during the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, Ibtisam Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war. With candor and courage, she stitches together memories of her childhood: fear and confusion as bombs explode near her home and she is separated from her family; the harshness of
life as a Palestinian refugee; her unexpected joy when she discovers Alef, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. This is the beginning of her passionate connection to words, and as language becomes her refuge, allowing her to piece together the fragments of her world, it becomes her true home.
Transcending the particulars of politics, this illuminating and timely book provides a telling glimpse into a little-known culture that has become an increasingly important part of the puzzle of world peace.
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.