Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family

By Najla Said

A frank and wonderful memoir—from the daughter of Edward Said—now in paperback.

The daughter of the well-known highbrow and outspoken Palestinian suggest Edward stated and a worldly Lebanese mom, Najla stated grew up in big apple urban, careworn and conflicted approximately her cultural history and id. stated knew that her mom and dad pointed out deeply with their homelands, yet turning out to be up in a new york global that was once outlined mostly via category and conformity, she felt uncertain approximately who she was once purported to be, and was once usually in denial of the diversities she sensed among her kin and people round her. She could have been born a Palestinian Lebanese American, yet stated denied her real roots, even to herself—until, finally, the mental toll of her self-hatred started to threaten her health.

As she grew older, she finally got here to determine herself, her passions, and her identification extra sincerely. this present day she is a voice for second-generation Arab americans national.

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I knew Jenny and her mom and dad were to Israel a handful of occasions and regarded it a spot for Jews, yet that hadn’t shocked me, or made me uncomfortable, simply because I additionally knew, very sincerely, that her mom and dad cherished me, and had no cultural or racist misconceptions approximately Palestinians. in reality, they knew extra approximately what was once happening in Palestine than the other Jewish humans I had ever met. I knew that my mom and dad have been opposed to violence in all its varieties, and that i knew that it wasn’t reasonable that my dad was once born in a spot referred to as Palestine that finally turned a spot known as Israel. I didn’t understand it then yet i assumed in social justice and have been steeped in secular, humanistic inspiration on the grounds that beginning. i thought within the reason for a people who others speedy categorized “terrorists. ” This “cause” that i used to be connected to was once certainly now not whatever i presumed of as in any respect noble or simply, notwithstanding. In my adolescent attention, it used to be an embarrassing nuisance that made me diversified from my neighbors. i needed it weren’t whatever I needed to take into consideration. I endured to need that I have been simply “a area Irish, 1 / 4 Scottish, 1 / 4 German, and 1 / 4 Swedish” like every my pals appeared to be. while I entered highschool, within the fall of 1988, the Palestinian intifada, which had started a 12 months prior, used to be good lower than means. For a second in background, photos of younger Arab boys throwing rocks at huge, immense Israeli military tanks grew to become our sympathetic, albeit accidental, calling card. Palestinians, whereas nonetheless in lots of methods a secret to so much americans, looked to be tugging at our collective heartstrings in a lot a similar method that the chinese language guy in Tiananmen sq. and the younger Germans who had a good time because the Berlin Wall crumbled might. My father was once on tv increasingly more. lots of my Jewish neighbors could see him at the information, and have been without delay inspired (“Your dad is so cool the way in which he close down that Israeli man via spitting out these evidence and quoting these UN resolutions and completely now not backing down”) and unconverted (“I suggest, I absolutely disagree with what he was once announcing, yet, you recognize, I recognize it. So frickin’ cool, Naj”). I didn’t care. I knew i thought no matter what my dad stated, and began to benefit from the suggestion that my kin used to be in some way at the leading edge of radical proposal. i used to be simply on the age while adolescents commence exploring their very own perspectives, whilst “revolution” and “marijuana” develop into buzzwords; whilst, no matter if merely quickly, Che Guevara and Malcolm X start to take where of heroes like Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy within the adolescent brain. i began to note that my dad’s prestige between these cool adequate to grasp what used to be happening on this planet used to be godlike. Jenny and her sister regularly proven this for me. although I didn’t are looking to be a type of humans, these women who smelled like patchouli and who went to rallies in Union sq. on weekends and fixed to a strict vegan nutrition, I nonetheless notion they have been cool, and used to be pleased with the truth that they held my dad in such excessive esteem. i used to be vaguely enthusiastic about the assumption of being devoted and status up for human rights, however the one protest I went to—an Amnesty overseas rally in team spirit with the protesters of Tiananmen Square—involved having to pee for a very long time, being chilly and hungry, and never rather eager to take the boring-looking leaflets the activists stored handing out to me.

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