Kashua, Sayed. Dancing Arabs.

JurisdictionUnited States
AuthorShihade, Magid
Date22 December 2005

Kashua, Sayed. Dancing Arabs. Translated from the Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger New York: Grove Press, 2004, 227 pages. Paper $12.00

Published first in Hebrew in 2002, the novel is divided into five parts, each containing different stories. Each story features the protagonist speaking through a different character and focuses on a certain person, event, incident, or time period.

Dancing Arabs is dancing between identities and within history. It is dancing through the bitter history of one's self, one's community, and one's people. It is about how things turned out for the Palestinians and how it is to live as a Palestinian under a hostile political system and Jewish Zionist culture. It is written with humor and without self-righteousness.

The author writes about life in Tira--an Arab Palestinian village in the Galilee, with intimate stories of childhood, adulthood, and parenthood. The novel is about the Palestinian community in general.

The novel begins with a story about the narrator's. At the start of the novel, his grandmother tells him about objects she kept in the cupboard where she hid old photos, newspapers clips and documents. His grandmother is the only person idealized in the novel. She is an orphan, who got married and had four children and whose husband died in the war of 1948 while fighting the Zionists. She then worked as a fruit picker to raise her children. Idealizing his grandmother reflects the narrator's view of the female role in the family. She is the oldest, most respected and most powerful person in the family; it is a view of Arab women rarely heard in the West.

The author narrates many stories, often making blunt statements and expressing his feelings about the situation in the country through someone else's voice, like his father's, or his grandmother's. He does that while appearing cynical, often distancing himself from the utterances of those voices. This is a way of writing under censorship. This is a tool that most Palestinian writers and poets in Israel have been using since the time of Mahmoud Darwish and Emile Habibi. The tone is not only cynical, but is also full of humor as the author expresses views and feelings, pretending not to be serious to avoid punishment or censure.

The novel reads like a sociopolitical history without idealization. It is about the life of the author's father and family during the military rule of intense administrative detentions, restrictions on movement, civil and political...

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