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A Palestine story

Journey From A Palestinian Refugee Camp to America
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The Palestine story


A NEW historical fiction about the situation in Palestine is in the pipeline. Bahrain-based author Jamal Kanj was born in a Palestinian refugee camp, emigrated to the US in the 1970s, where he graduated university with a degree in engineering.

He wrote a memoir about his experiences called Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestine Refugee Camp to America, and is now following up his debut effort with a novel about the struggles.

"My interest in politics drives my writing," the 55-year-old told the GDN.

"It comes from being a Palestinian descendant born in a refugee camp.

"I've been involved in various issues from Palestine.

"There is a part of Palestinian story that is not told, and I thought it was my responsibility to tell the story as much as I can."

He said that due to higher interest in fiction, he decided to try his hand at historical fiction after initially penning a memoir.

"The book follows a historical timeline and uses fictitious personalities to be able to tell the story," he said.

"By combining fact with imagination, I am trying to produce a much more vivid picture of reality as I know it.

"The book runs from the pre-1948 period all the way to war in Gaza in 2011.


"It follows the protagonist, Kenda, from being a child in Palestine and her travels from home to homelessness.

"It follows her to Gaza and Lebanon, and she eventually ends up working in the Gulf as a housemaid to provide for her family in a refugee camp and her child, who ends up in America and gets caught up in 9/11."

Mr Kanj said that he hoped his book would achieve three main points.

"The most important thing is that it addresses what happened to Palestine, the exodus itself, what it meant for people who have lived through it," he said.

"The second part is the suffering of the Palestinian refugees and how they're treated in the region, unable to travel, move around and how that complicated their life even more.

"Finally, how the West after 9/11 started treating everyone with an Arab or a Muslim name as guilty."

He said he hoped to portray several historical fictions about Palestine, each story told through difference perspectives, highlighting different experiences.

"It's a collection of the things I know, of people who have experienced it directly," he said.

"It has some of my own experience, including how I dealt with harassment as an activist in the US."

Mr Kanj aims to send his novel out to publishers this year, with a view to a book release in 2015.