By Yousef M. Aljamal – Gaza
A group of female graduates at the Islamic University of Gaza, in collaboration with the American Consulate in Jerusalem, organized American Literature Day on May 5, 2016, at Gaza’s Roots Restaurant.
The event, attended by hundreds of graduates and students, highlighted the works of American authors such as Hemingway, and drew parallels between Palestine and the United States, by highlighting Palestinian-American and Afro-American literature.
Ghada Al-Haddad, a co-organizer of the event quoted Palestinian-American, Naomi Shihab Nye, as saying, “Arab-American identity is not something to be preserved or denied or escaped or romanticized: it is just another way of being human, in language that is readily accessible to a mainstream U.S. readership.”
Al-Haddad told the Palestine Chronicle: “Two examples of Palestinian Americans who contributed to the literary field are Edward Said and Susan Abulhawa. They speak about exile, identity and home.”
African-American literature and figures of the civil rights movement such as Martin Luther King were also present on the day, with a spotlight on the works of Maya Angelou and Malcolm X.
Alaa’ Alqisi told the Palestine Chronicle that her section, “Was dedicated to African-American literature which Palestinians share common ground with, such as Malcolm X and his famous autobiography. The issue of Palestinian-African solidarity in literature is of a great importance.”
American Literature is taught at Gaza’s various universities and students are familiar with works written by American authors such as Edgar Allan Poe. Palestinians also find a common ground with Native-American literature, which was mostly oral, much like that of Palestinians before their mass exile in 1948.
“The oral history literature of native Americans is as important as it is for Palestinians,” said Rasha Ghabayen, moderator of the Native American literature section.
Dr. Akram Habib, Professor of American Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza told the Palestine Chronicle, “It is a great pleasure to see the outcomes of classes turned into concrete work. I am here to celebrate the achievements of my students. We share many values in common through literature, such as freedom.”
Until Palestinians regain their freedom, the words of Malcolm X will always serve as a reminder to them: “If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary”. Until Palestine is liberated, it will continue to live on in the writings and literature of Palestinians, which reach all corners of the world.
– Yousef M. Aljamal is the Palestine Chronicle Correspondent in the Gaza Strip.