Born a Refugee, A Novel of One Palestinian Family, by Dixiane Hallaj, is not getting the attention it deserves. That may be because the author is an unknown. It may be because the subject is politically polarizing. Neither reason is an acceptable excuse to ignore a book as important as this one.
Mother is a single parent struggling to keep her family safe and intact while living under military occupation. Her sons Muhammad, Mamoud, Selim and Ali are all intelligent and at times willful. Considering where they live these traits are, at times, an extremely dangerous combination.
If you remove the setting from Palestine these characters become us. Mother is every woman who wants what’s best for her children. Her sons are our boys becoming men, chafing at the restraints we put on them while doing their best to honor and protect us.
Yes, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is very much a part of the story but, it serves only as a catalyst for the events in the lives of people just like us. And that’s the most powerful message in the book. “Look at us,” it says. “We are the same as you. We want to stay in our homes. We want to live in peace and we want our children to grow up to raise their own families.” Born a Refugee serves to remind us that only when people begin to truly understand that basic concept will we stop killing one another over land, religion and politics.