Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

A story across four generations of a Palestinian family, the Yacoubs’, struggling to make sense of their displacement from Palestine and longing for it; written lyrically by the author, is moving and melancholic. The narrative starts from Nablus in 1963 and travels to Kuwait, Amman, Beirut, Paris and the United States. One of the principal characters in the book, Alia and Atef, see their life uprooted from Nablus during the Six day war of 1967. They are forced to build themselves again in Kuwait. It’s also during this war that Alia suffers the loss of her brother Mustafa. A loss so deep, ravenous and unspoken that it consumes Alia and Atef in layers and remains timeless.

In the 1990, attack on Kuwait by Saddam Hussain, forces them to move to Amman. This disruption on the idea of a sense of belonging percolates across generations. The inability to establish a permanence of a home is felt viscerally through volatile relationships, anger, resentment and a forever sense of escapism.

The story captures the lives of Alia and Atef’s children, Riham, Karam and Souad and their respective children with poignancy. The Israel Lebanon war in 2006, again makes each of their lives scattered. Everyone is forever trying to piece that missing part of themselves that was lost decades ago in the erstwhile Palestine.

Hala Alyan, a Palestinian American writer, sensitively tackles this story of multigenerational trauma while keeping nostalgia as an affirmation and deflection. It portrays the diasporic memory of Palestinian lives without being in Palestine.



Author: theshinydiaries

Being authentic; one day at a time!

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