Mother of Strangers: Memoirs of Jaffa, a vanquished city with author Suad Amiry

On Tuesday, December 12th the Fares Center hosted a talk with acclaimed novelist Suad Amiry, author of six works of nonfiction, including Sharon and My Mother-in-Law, which was awarded the Viareggio-Versilia International Prize in 2004, and Golda Slept Here, which was awarded the Nonino Risit d’Aur Prize in 2014.

Suad discussed her latest book, Mother of Strangers. Based on the true story of two Jaffa teenagers, Mother of Strangers follows the daily lives of Subhi, a fifteen-year-old mechanic, and Shams, the thirteen-year-old student he hopes to marry one day. With a thriving orange export business, Jaffa had always been a city welcoming to outsiders—the “Mother of Strangers”—where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived peacefully together. Once the bombardment of the city begins in April 1948, Jaffa becomes unrecognizable, with neighborhoods flattened, families removed from their homes and separated, and those who remain in constant danger of arrest and incarceration. Most of the popula­tion flees eastward to Jordan or by sea to Lebanon in the north or to Egypt and Gaza in the south. Subhi and Shams will never see each other again.

Suad also spoke about her childhood, growing up in Amman and returning to Ramallah and Jerusalem, and how this journey inspires her writing. She also shared with the audience how writing is soothing for her even though she sometimes deals with difficult topics or memories. One audience member commented on the importance of literature as a path to the political, and the way that humanity and pain are transformed into beauty in her writing.