Behind You Is The Sea

'Fearlessly confronts stereotypes about Palestinian culture ... I wept and grew alongside this family' Etaf Rum

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Pub Date Jun 06 2024 | Archive Date Not set

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'Susan Muaddi Darraj's Behind You is the Sea is a powerful and moving novel about the lives of Palestinian immigrants. Told in rich, lush prose, this propulsive and beautiful novel will stay with me for a long time. I loved it' - Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Removed

An exciting debut novel that gives voice to the diverse residents of a Palestinian community in Baltimore—from young activists in conflict with their traditional parents to the poor who clean for the rich—lives which intersect across divides of class, generation, and religion.

Funny and touching, Behind You Is the Sea brings us into the homes and lives of three main Palestinian immigrants families —the Baladis, the Salamehs, and the Ammars.

Their various fates and struggles cause their community dynamic to sizzle and sometimes explode: The wealthy Ammar family employs young Maysoon Baladi, whose family struggles financially, to clean up after their spoiled teenagers. Meanwhile, Marcus Salameh, whose aunt married into the wealthy Ammar family, confronts his father in an effort to protect his younger sister for “dishonoring” the family. Only a trip to Palestine, where Marcus experiences an unexpected and dramatic transformation, can bridge this seemingly unbridgeable divide between the two generations.

Behind You Is the Sea faces stereotypes about Palestinian culture head-on and, shifting perspectives to weave a complex social fabric replete with weddings, funerals, broken hearts, and devastating secrets.

'Susan Muaddi Darraj's Behind You is the Sea is a powerful and moving novel about the lives of Palestinian immigrants. Told in rich, lush prose, this propulsive and beautiful novel will stay with me...

Advance Praise

'Behind You Is the Sea sweeps readers along as its characters search for love, dignity, and belonging while carving out their own unique destinies. The result sometimes defies cultural tradition and risks deep losses, but these characters always land closer to their personal truths. With tenderness and fitting humor, Muaddi Darraj deftly weaves multiple Arab American voices into a resonant chorus of humanity' - Sahar Mustafah, author of The Beauty of Your Face

'With this unforgettable collection of stories, Susan Muaddi Darraj assumes a unique place in American letters, her Palestinian sensibilities animating universal truths of the human condition. With gritty realism and poetic grace, she writes not simply of survival, but of dignity and flawed nobility in a world overflowing with cynicism and pain. From beginning to end, this novel-in-stories is filled with characters not easily forgotten, and the final story is, quite simply, one of the best that I have ever read. I am grateful for this book' - Frye Gaillard, author of A Hard Rain

'Not the Arabian Nights, but a new Arabian Days for our time, the intricately interlocked stories of Behind You Is the Sea bring us richly detailed news of the Palestinian immigrant experience in America…' - Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls’ Rising, Child of Light: A Biography of Robert Stone, and Behind the Moon

'Susan Muaddi Darraj’s Behind You Is the Sea, a tale of the interwoven lives of Palestinian American families in Baltimore, Md., will get your heart racing and leave you sitting at the edge of your seat. Muaddi Darraj paints highly complex and authentic portraits of Arabs in America as they struggle with poverty, religion, living in between two cultures and the pursuit of the American Dream. This page-turner of a novel is an instant classic, and a welcome addition to the cannon of writing on the Arab American experience' - Malaka Gharib, author of the graphic memoirs, It Won’t Always Be Like This and I Was Their American Dream

'In Behind You Is The Sea, multiple generations of a family confront stubborn, complicated truths while shouldering the burdensome weight of history. Susan Muaddi Darraj has fashioned a moving tale in which love, beauty, and life persist despite many injustices - indeed, despite everything' - Jabari Asim, author of Yonder

'Behind You Is the Sea sweeps readers along as its characters search for love, dignity, and belonging while carving out their own unique destinies. The result sometimes defies cultural tradition and...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781800754171
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

loved loved loved this one! i think it is super important for stories like this one to be out there and for people to educate themselves on the reality of palestinian families living in diaspora not only in the us, but all over the world. the writing was top-notch and not once did i struggle with the broad cast of characters, which is something i usually have a hard time connecting with! i will definitely keep an eye out for susan muaddi darraj’s future projects, because i adored this one to bits.

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And incredible collection of interrelated short stories about a family of Palestinians who have immigrated to the United States, and their neighbours. Each story from a different time, but interwoven with the others seamlessly. This is a mediation on what it is like to be Palestinian, to be newly American, to be an Immigrant and to be part of a family.

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Thank you NetGalley for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Behind you is the sea is a collection of interwoven short stories about the experiences of Palestinian Americans in Baltimore. It explores the rich and diverse lives of people even within a niche culture. I really enjoyed the different perspectives of immigrant parents and first generation American children; how the parents and children were attached or detached to their heritage. It explores complicated relationship and complicated people really effectively.

I found this book really interesting and felt I gained important insight into the Palestinian and Palestinian American experience.

Beautifully written, insightful and emotional, highly recommend

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4.5 stars
insanely beautiful collection of interconnecting stories about the Palestinian diaspora. i think writing a novel with shifting narratives lends the risk of creating forgettable characters in the mix, but i felt a deep connection to every single character, so much so that i was sad when their chapter would end. i thought the way characters experienced the American dream in their own unique ways was so interesting, seeing the effects of assimilation into Western society vs being unable to, the desperation of clinging to the remnants of ur culture, the cultural stain in being dishonoured from your own family. one of my favourite stories was Samira’s,, the father daughter relationship was soul destroying to read,, and i also loved how the novel had a full circle moment with Marcus visiting Palestine for the first time to return his fathers body,, incredibly moving.

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Behind You Is The Sea is a story of three families in a Palestinian community in Baltimore, their lives intertwining across divides of class, generation, and religion.

CW/TW: This book contains themes related to abortion and infertility, cancer, dementia, death, domestic abuse, disordered eating behaviors and body image which may be distressing or triggering for some readers.

I finished this gem in just one day! It gives profound insight into the challenges immigrants face both navigating their new lives and within their families, their generation and other generations. The novel is powerful,heartwarming, heartbreaking and often funny.

The characters are vivid. I particularly loved 'Cleaning Lentils' which reminded me of my own childhood and deep connection with my grandparents.

It's a beautifully written and deeply moving, important novel that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page.

💭 Have you read and enjoyed any books by Palestinian women authors?

🙏🏼 Thank you to Netgalley SwiftPress for this gifted ARC.

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I enjoyed how the stories interconnected and was heartfelt.
Given that there is not many palestinian fiction author in the mainstream, this was a good intro to the culture and background.
I think it's relatable to any immigrant that has come to the west and has to deal with identity, racism and class issues.

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This book is the story of Palestinian families who emigrated to the USA or were born there to immigrant parents. We learn of their stories from mainly from the second and third generation immigrant family members but the experiences of the first generations are included in these viewpoints. We see the connections between these families, how they view each other, both within their own community and against the Americans and how this influences their lives. We see how the first generations, try and maintain the Palestine roots through names they give their children, language, food and music, we see how their attitudes impact their feelings for their new homeland. We also find out how the later generations start to integrate more into the American culture but don’t entirely fit in and how this also causes issues with their own parents.

This is not only a book about immigration, about cultural differences but about life too, regardless of cultural roots: we witness marriages, affairs, different ways of life, dealing with infertility, abortion, illnesses like dementia, family feuds and falling outs just to mention a few. The final chapter is beautiful and full of emotion.

The viewpoints change from chapter to chapter and the chapters are therefore relatively long as they each tell a person’s story. Over the course of the book, we see the same names crop up and start to make the connections between these individuals and how they relate to each other. I actually ended up drawing up a family tree of sorts a few chapters in, as I found it tricky remembering who was who and being able to glance at this whilst starting a new chapter helped me place that person straight away.

The writing is beautiful and rich. There are parts that make you laugh and parts which break your heart. A wonderful insight into both emigration and life after in a new land and Palestine history and culture.

Thank you so much to @netgalley and @swiftpress for this ARC (advanced reader copy). Publication date in the UK for for Behind you is the sea is 6 June 2024.

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