Her First Palestinian: And Other Stories

Saeed Teebi's Her First Palestinian is a deeply moving collection of Palestinian diaspora stories set in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Bustling with the everyday drama of people who are at various stages of assimilating to their adopted homes, the stories include doctors, lawyers and teachers at the cusp of their professional lives, tending generational wounds of traumatic displacement from a homeland under occupation.

Teebi, a Canadian attorney and writer of Palestinian heritage by way of Kuwait, spins tender tales--from the title story, which captures the romanticization of the Palestinian cause by an idealistic lawyer, to that of a schoolgirl swept up in racial justice protests that alarm her Middle Eastern father in "Enjoy Your Life, Capo"--and illuminates Arabic history in the context of the contemporary cultural challenges that face his protagonists. Infused with enchanting emotional energy, "Ushanka" consists of e-mails between a grandfather and his beloved granddaughter Dasha. An aura of bewilderment colors their communication as Dasha tries to convince her impulsive grandfather, who fled to Moscow to search for an actress he once knew, to come home to Montreal. The grandfather, an aspiring citrus magnate who was forced out of his home city of Yafa, carries memories that are as fragrant and sweet as the oranges he once proudly sold.

One of the nine stories in Teebi's debut collection transports readers to an unnamed Middle Eastern kingdom where family members await the outcome of their asylum application. For refugees who settle in Canada, the prospect of a peaceful and prosperous future is some consolation for a homeland that now exists only in their dreams. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

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