Mother of Strangers

A Novel

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Pub Date 02 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 01 Nov 2022

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Set in Jaffa in between 1947 and 1951, this “fable-like historical novel of young love ... darkly humorous and touching” (Oprah Daily) is based on a true story during the beginning of the destruction of Palestine and displacement of its people.

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. In this prosperous and cosmopolitan port city, with its bustling markets, cinemas, and cafés on the hills overlooking the Mediter­ranean Sea, we meet many other unforgettable charac­ters as well, including Khawaja Michael, the elegant and successful owner of orange groves above the harbor; Mr. Hassan, the tailor who makes Subhi’s treasured English suit, which he hopes will change his life; and the very mischievous and outrageous Uncle Habeeb, who insists on introducing Subhi to the local bordello.
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, Suad Amiry gives us the grim but fascinating details of the shock, panic, and destruc­tion that ensues. 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 Amiry has written a vivid and devastating ac­count of a seminal moment in the history of the Middle East—the beginning of the end of Palestine and a por­trait of a city irrevocably changed.
Set in Jaffa in between 1947 and 1951, this “fable-like historical novel of young love ... darkly humorous and touching” (Oprah Daily) is based on a true story during the beginning of the destruction...

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ISBN 9780593316559
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Featured Reviews

Set in Jaffa--yes, where the oranges come from--in the late 1940's, "Mother of Strangers" focuses on working-class Palestinians during the civil war and partition. Subhi is only fifteen but already known as a one of those mechanics who can immediately see how to repair any machine. He's in love with a thirteen-year-old country girl he met at a festival, and he is eager to earn enough to marry her and launch his own family. Suad Amiry lovingly sets the scene of cafes, cinemas, markets, and large families happily into one another's business. But then the civil war begins, with some of the first of many displacements of Palestinians and families scrambling to find one another.

Amiry so carefully creates the setting--a place and time new to many westerners--that you can almost smell the coffee in the cafe and the oranges in the fields. Watching these rooted families become refugees, fighting to survive mayhem and stick together is moving and hard. Amiry sheds light on little known events in a difficult time.

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