Randa Abdel Fattah Visits Palestine
I first heard about Randa Abdel Fattah when a Muslim friend in Hawaii told me that her daughter checked out a book from the library for her. The book was called “Does My Head Look Big in This?” My friend wears hijab and has a huge, over-sized head. She couldn’t stop laughing about her daughter’s humor, bringing home this book for her mom.
Two years later I finally had the chance to meet the author whom I adored from the first, so warm and friendly. Randa is a litigation lawyer, a mother and writer, among other titles. The reason we met—she came back to Palestine to teach for a week.
Raised in Australia, Randa has a fabulous accent and radiates energy. She arrived in Palestine with her father and her five year old daughter in early April. Abu Randa left Palestine in 1965 and tells me he hasn’t eaten green loz since that time. He bought a kilo and ate the entire bag full as he wandered through Ramallah, learning the city he remembered so differently from fifty years ago.
So why is Randa here with her daughter and father? Randa’s book “Where the Streets Had a Name” was recently published in Arabic by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP), who partnered with the Palestine Writing Workshop to bring her to Palestine. The main project was an intensive creative writing course on how to write literature for youth and children, given in coordination with Tamer Institute. She also gave a workshop via video conference with Gaza and a lecture at Al Quds University. Randa raved about all of the young writers she’s encountered and they, in turn, have sung her praises as a teacher, writer and woman.
Like many in the Diaspora, Randa relied on people here for descriptions of Palestine and its features. Occupation constantly reconfigures (in mostly violent ways) the land, shifts routes to school, and changes the rules of the game. Now, of course, Randa is able to describe the checkpoint without another’s mediation, but, moreover, she also will describe the enthusiasm of the writers she's training, she will describe the historic building turned hotel where she's sleeping, and she will surely describe the taste of khubayze (a dish made from Common Mallow) that was picked from the garden where she eats. The week she has spent here provided an amazing opportunity not only for Randa and her family, but for the many people here who have been challenged and inspired by her presence. A huge thank you to Randa and Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing for making this experience possible!
(Photo courtesy of Rima Najjar)