Ibtisam Barakat – Farrar Straus Giroux: New York (2016)
This book grabbed my attention sitting on the display shelf at the library, and I read about a third of it before setting it aside. There was nothing on the cover or the inside jacket to clue me into the author’s intended audience — teenagers and young adults. I came to that conclusion on my own, and later found a book review online to confirm my hunch.
Ibtisam Barakat tells her personal story growing up in the West Bank as a high school student from 1972 – 1981. This is a companion book to her earlier memoir “Tasting the Sky.”
I would recommend Balcony on the Moon as a gift for teenage friends and family members.
From the Kirkus Review:
The author, a poet, picks up in 1971, where her earlier memoir, Tasting the Sky (2007), left off. She recounts her years from second grade through high school, dividing the book into five sections based on their different homes in Palestine. Told in a first-person, present-tense voice, the episodic narrative deftly combines personal and political events. Evocative details convey her family’s everyday life, in which her father’s despair looms large. A memorable chapter recounts his threat to kill himself by crashing his truck; the whole family insists on accompanying him on the ride. As she grows older, Barakat feels embattled as a Palestinian surrounded by soldiers and hampered as a girl by societal restrictions. Starting in seventh grade, she connects to the larger world through pen pals and then through an eminent magazine editor who encourages her writing. A top student, Barakat grows in knowledge and also compassion, evident when she tutors her strong-willed mother, who returns to high school. A pervasive sense of loss informs much of her childhood, with a growing realization that no promising future exists for her or her siblings in Palestine.