I finished reading Gaza Mom a few weeks ago and still find myself reflecting on this poignant and beautifully written book. My Global Women’s Issues class was honored to have Laila El-Haddad as a guest speaker last semester, speaking to us about her experiences as a young mother and journalist living and working in Gaza. Laila, along with one of my students, inspired me to begin blogging. She blogged about living in occupied Gaza, about the capricious and cruel nature of the Israeli limitations on movement across borders in the region, about the acts of terrorizing and terrorism towards Palestinian people, and about the everyday getting on with life as a mother in a war zone. Laila’s blog, called Gaza Mom, was transformed into a book of the same title. A touchstone story that captivated me and my students was a conversation that Laila had with her two-year old son Yousuf, attempting to explain why they could not cross the border to return to their home in Gaza. There is something so heartbreaking about the attempt to find some reason and logic to explain an unreasonable and illogical reality to a young child. While I teach my students not to accept “single stories” as an adequate way to understand people or places, I am a little ashamed of how little I know about the Palestinian experience—the multiple stories that make up the Middle East. And, as Laila so insightfully points out in her book, the multiple stories within each story or the profound complexities that are being lived out, in this case, in Gaza.
I hope to use Gaza Mom in a future Global Women’s Studies class and recommend this book to anyone who desires to complicate the U.S. public narrative about Israel and Palestine. Interesting and compelling reading.