In 1947, the rural Palestinian village of Beit Daras is home to the Baraka family – oldest daughter Nazmiyeh, brother Mamdouh, dreamy Mariam and their widowed mother, called ’the crazy lady’ by villagers. When Israeli forces descend, sending the village in flames, the family must walk the long and devastating road to Gaza. Sixty years later, in the U.S.A., Mamdouh’s granddaughter Nur falls in love with a doctor. Following him to Gaza, she meets Alwan, who will help Nur discover the ties of kinship that transcend distance, and even death.
Told with raw humanity, The Blue Between Sky and Water is a lyrical, devastatingly beautiful story of a family’s relocation, separation, endurance and love.
Susan Abulhawa Biography
Susan Abulhawa was born to refugees of the Six Day War of 1967, when Israel captured what remained of Palestine and seized her Jerusalem family’s land and heritage.
She moved to the U.S.A. as a teenager, graduated in neuroscience and established a career in biomedical science.
In 2001, she founded Playgrounds for Palestine, a children’s organisation dedicated to upholding The Right to Play for Palestinian children.
Susan is a novelist, a poet, an essayist. Her debut novel, Mornings in Jenin, was an international bestseller, translated into 28 languages.
She lives in Pennsylvania with her daughter and their dogs.
Susan Abulhawa on the Inspiration Behind The Blue Between Sky and Water
I know a private world of women. A social and familial space where grandmothers, aunties, mothers, daughters, great-grandchildren, neighbors, cousins, and friends gather to drink coffee, read their fortunes in the grinds, gossip, roll grape leaves, smoke. It is a space where they scheme and laugh. A space in and from which they protect and or destroy each other. Where they shed tears and sometimes huddle from military fire. It’s where the fine Palestinian art of tatreez embroidery is passed from one generation to another. Where stories, ballads, folklore, and heritage move through generations. Where women sing and dance for each other. Where the bodies of brides are prepared for their marital beds. Where revenge is plotted, reconciliation achieved, collective prayers made, life celebrated, sorrow shared, secrets buried.
Even at a very young age, I understood that society was not privy to this world, not even the men in the family.
The Blue Between Sky and Water springs from this sacred space and unfolds in Gaza over the span of several decades. The women in this story are marvelous and I fell in love with each, for different reasons. They are fun and broken and beautiful and silly and crass. They are all fictitious, of course. But they were written from the real stuff of exile, strength, siege, love, military occupation, patriarchy, loss and more loss, olives and dates, death and birth, marriage, betrayal, divorce, friendship, family and irredeemable loneliness.