Queer, Female and Palestinian: Stories of Love and Belonging
by Maggie Levantovskaya
Right now is a great time to get to know two Palestinian-American creative writers, Zaina Arafat and Randa Jarrar. Last year Zaina Arafat published a highly acclaimed debut novel, You Exist Too Much, which Roxane Gay praised for having a "deeply compelling protagonist." You Exist Too Much makes a powerful companion to Randa Jarrar's memoir, Love Is an Ex-Country, which is still warm off the press. Though one is fiction and the other creative non-fiction, both books tell stories of LGBTQIA+ Palestinian-American women who live in the fullness of struggle and joy. Each grapples with a history of abuse, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy and anti-Muslim as well as anti-Palestinian violence. Both authors craft gorgeous sentences and build worlds that feel lived in and profoundly shaped by sociohistorical contexts. Both authors show the possibility of belonging outside settler nation-states and in the pockets of communities, relationships and intimate encounters. If it's accessible to you, I recommend getting the audiobook version of Jarrar's Love Is an Ex-Country because it's one of the best-performed I've heard.
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Maggie Levantovskaya is a Center for the Arts and Humanities fellow for the 2021/2022 year. She’s spending her summer fending off pandemic blues by hiking in Oakland, listening to audiobooks, and watching as many films on the Criterion channel as possible.