I just finished reading Suad Amiry’s Sharon and my Mother-in-Law. The book is a result of her Ramallah diaries (from 1981 to 2004), where she described her everyday life under occupation. Absurdity and agony would be the words to describe this book (the feelings it ewokes), spiced with a lot of humor. For example, there is the situation when Amiry’s husband Salim gets arrested during curfew , but not because he was breaking curfew. The reason for the arrest was that Amiry was refusing soldier’s orders to stop staring at him. Then there is Amiry’s dog, Nura, toy Manchester terrier who enjoys more political rights than her owner (Nura was granted a coveted Jerusalemite passport by her Israeli veterinarian in a settlement nearby Ramallah). Amiry decides to laugh about it all! To stay sane – you must find a way to laugh at things, otherwise – it’s easy to fall into the circle of depression and anxiety.
Another quality of the book lies in the fact that Amiry is not focused exclusively on criticizing Israel, but opens up about the issues in the Palestinian society. All in all, Sharon and my Mother-in-Law is not a literary masterpiece, but it’s not aiming to be one either. However, Amiry succeeded in capturing the everyday absurdity of life in the Occupied Territories, and that is a great achievement.
The book has been translated into 19 languages, the last one in Arabic (which was a bestseller in France), and was awarded the prestigious Viareggio Prize in 2004. Here are some of the excerpts:
„I’d definitely have to hide Nura’s passport from Samir Hulieleh, who after twenty-four years of marriage to Sawsan, Jerusalemite, had not yet succeeded in getting a Jerusalem ID. I did not want to think about adorable little Yasmin, Sawsan’s and Samir’s only child. The Israelis would not give her a Jerusalem ID because her father had a Palestinian Ramallah ID, and the Palestinian Authority would not give her a Palestinian ID because her mother had an Israeli Jerusalem ID. If Jewish and Arab traditions were respected, Yasmin should have two identity cards, one of her mother and one after her father. But she has none.“
„Every few days they would lift the curfew for ‘humane reasons’, so that civilians could go out to buy food and medicine. Ramallah would become an absolutely frantic town, with everyone running like crazy to do their shopping before the three hour respite was over. Every now and then, I used to refuse to leave the house in defiance of Israel’s decision: ‘Now you can come out of your houses and run like crazy as we watch you, while pointing our guns at you just in case.‘“
„’What a pity we didn’t carry the begonia pot with us that you gave me on Easter Sunday.’ This was the first thing my mother in-law said to me as I got out of bed at 7.30 to open the door for Nura. ‘It’s OK, Um Salim, our hand were full of more important things’, I answered back with half-open eyes. ‘Khsarah (What a pity), it will die,’ she mumbled. ‘People in Nablus and Jenin are dying under the rubble of their houses,’ I mumbled back quietly, so as not to depress her even more.“
Suad Amiry is an author and an architect living in Ramallah. She is engaged in many peace initiatives of Palestinian and Israeli women. She is director and founder of the Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation (the center was founded in 1991 and is the first of its kind to work on the rehabilitation and protection of architectural heritage in Palestine).