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4.0 

Behind You Is the Sea

By Susan Muaddi Darraj
Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj digital book - Fable

Publisher Description

“Behind You Is the Sea fearlessly confronts stereotypes about Palestinian culture, weaving a remarkable portrait of life's intricate moments, from joyous weddings to heart-wrenching funerals, from shattered hearts to hidden truths—I wept and grew alongside this family. This is a story that challenges perceptions, offering a heartfelt glimpse into the interior lives of those who call this community home. A must read novel with unforgettable characters and an unwavering, fresh voice—I couldn’t put it down until the very last page! Darraj delivers an instant, necessary, and authentic classic to the cannon of Arab-American literature.”—Etaf Rum, author of Evil Eye and A Woman Is No Man

An exciting debut novel that gives voice to the diverse residents of a Palestinian American community in Baltimore—from young activists in conflict with their traditional parents to the poor who clean for the rich—lives which intersect across divides of class, generation, and religion.

Funny and touching, Behind You Is the Sea brings us into the homes and lives of three main families—the Baladis, the Salamehs, and the Ammars—Palestinian immigrants who’ve all found a different welcome in America.

Their various fates and struggles cause their community dynamic to sizzle and sometimes explode: The wealthy Ammar family employs young Maysoon Baladi, whose own family struggles financially, to clean up after their spoiled teenagers. Meanwhile, Marcus Salameh confronts his father in an effort to protect his younger sister for “dishonoring” their name. Only a trip to Palestine, where Marcus experiences an unexpected and dramatic transformation, can bridge this seemingly unbridgeable divide between the two generations.

Behind You Is the Sea faces stereotypes about Palestinian culture head-on and, shifting perspectives to weave a complex social fabric replete with weddings, funerals, broken hearts, and devastating secrets.

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2 Reviews

4.0
“pretty great! i liked the writing though felt it should have been a little bit longer. thanks for the arc!”
“Story premise: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Character development: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Writing style: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Ending: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy." While this was said hundreds of years ago by an invading Islamic General, the characters in Susan Muaddi Darraj's debut novel draw from it in times of struggle, in search of hope. We're introduced to an array of characters from three interconnected Palestinian families, spanning multiple generations -- each impacted by the complicated history of their ancestral homeland. Every chapter finds its own narrator and sheds light on the complicated journey through life in the United States as an immigrant or the children  of immigrants. The characters meet and turn on their head many common stereotypes of Arab immigrants as they live through love, loss and generational trauma. Throughout each story, Palestine looms large, a silent but ever present character in the background. It's clear each person has a different relationship to where they've come from as well as where they've ended up. This is particularly true as we navigate the difficult relationships between the elder generations, who lived through the Nakba or left their home in Palestine, and the younger generations who were born abroad and for whom "home" is a story, a shadow.  The power of this novel lies in the author's ability to paint each character with a depth that many other authors only find in hundreds of pages. I fell in love, had my heart broken and pieced it all back together in every chapter. And while I would sincerely love to read an entire book about every character (particularly Samira, oh my gosh),  I never felt cheated by the brevity of their stories. Each character was complete, whole and so unique in how their experiences colored who they turned out to be. Muaddi Darraj makes it so very clear what Arab-Americans (and Palestinians in particular) have been trying to tell us for a long time; they may share many things but they cannot be painted as one. They contain multitudes. While this book was penned before the most recent atrocities (read: Genocide) in Palestine, it's voice remains the same. I imagine the complexities have only deepened, as has the pain and trauma. While we watch the bombs fall on Gaza in real time, it's sometimes hard to imagine what our Palestinian-American brothers and sisters may be experiencing as they watch from afar. I'm grateful for storytellers in these moments. And as we know sometimes all we have left is the hope of courage and constancy.”

About Susan Muaddi Darraj

Susan Muaddi Darraj is the author of A Curious Land, a novel in stories which earned an American Book Award and was a finalist for a Palestine Book Award. In 2018, she was named a Ford Fellow by USA Artists. A past winner of the Maryland State Art Council’s Independent Artist Award, she is also the author of Farah Rocks, the first children’s book series to feature a Palestinian-American character. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and teaches at Johns Hopkins University.

Other books by Susan Muaddi Darraj

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