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Suppressed Nakba memories in Palestinian female narratives : Susan Abulhawa’s The Blue Between Sky and Water and Radwa Ashour’s The Woman from Tantoura

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Israeli officials have long denied that rape was used as an instrument of war against Palestinians. Most of the files relating to the expulsion of Palestinians during the Nakba in 1948 and its aftermath remain sealed in Israeli archives and have been reclassified as top secret. Palestinian oral narratives have long been considered a poor alternative to historical research based on archives or written texts. In addition, some of the narrative in many instances was driven by ideology that favoured the male voice, resulting in the silencing of Palestinian female voices. Hence, Palestinian stories were either the official narrative or stories told by their menfolk. Oral histories or testimonies by women were often missing, not only in the collective narrative but also in stories told through first-hand experiences of the Palestinian Nakba in 1948. Of late, suppressed accounts by women who witnessed the Nakba and its aftermath have emerged. My essay analyzes two fictionalized historical novels that are not only grounded in actual events but also depict incidents of rape, a subject that has long been silenced in Palestinian and Israeli narratives on the Nakba. The novels present accounts of two female villagers who survive the ordeal of displacement, exile, and rape to tell their stories. The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa is a story of survival of a peasant family from the village of Beit Daras, while The Woman from Tantoura by Radwa Ashour tells the story of the aftermath of the 1948 massacre of Tantoura.

Keywords: Abulhawa, Susan; Ashour, Radwa; Palestine rape; ethnic cleansing; exile; nakba

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Mass Communication, American University of Sharjah, UAE

Publication date: May 19, 2022

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