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A Girl's Paradise Lost cover

  • eBook Edition
    • 978-1-03-916548-9
    • epub, pdf files
  • Paperback Edition
    • 978-1-03-916546-5
    • 6.0 x 9.0 inches
    • Black & White interior
    • 186 pages
  • Hardcover Edition
    • 978-1-03-916547-2
    • 6.0 x 9.0 inches
    • Black & White interior
    • 186 pages
  • Keywords
    • The Nakba,
    • Jaffa,
    • Palestine,
    • Sitt Zubaida,
    • Palestine war,
    • Growing up in Jaffa,
    • Cultural heritage

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A Girl's Paradise Lost
A Story of a Girl Growing Up in Love, Peace and War
by Nawal Halawa

Sitt Zubaida’s idyllic childhood on the al-Ajami Beach in Jaffa is nothing short of paradise. She spends her days with her loving family and with the enchanting sea, and spends her nights reading novels, immersing herself in stories of romance. But Sitt Zubaida’s world is changed with the arrival of the Palestinian Nakba in 1948, and her paradise is lost forever. The girl and her family join the more than 750,000 Palestinian Arabs displaced from their homes. Due to the tumultuous Israel-Palestine conflict, Sitt Zubaida and her family move from home to home, city to city, and country to country, causing years of anguish as she reflects on what was and yearns to return to her paradise. The partly autobiographical, partly fictionalized narrative of daily life and family traditions before and after the Nakba is interspersed with nostalgic memories and emotional reflections. Sitt Zubaida’s story captures the deeply human experience of loss and displacement, combined with a love and longing that can never be extinguished. A Girl’s Paradise Lost shines a humanizing light on the personal and social impact of a tragedy too often ignored in political accounts of historic Palestine and portrayals of Palestinians as either victims or terrorists.

"What a wonderful book this is. By making it a narration in the first person, it makes crystal clear exactly what the Palestinians lost with Nakba—their strong ties of community, of family, of custom, of inheritance—characteristics that even held together the small number of Palestinians who managed to survive in the new state of Israel. Halawa writes about the details of everyday life with such knowledge and passion that the reader is entirely pulled in to the story, and is left wondering how such a painful experience could have been imposed on an innocent people, without any consequences for the perpetrators. Maybe Halawa's story will help some day to establish the 'right to return'." —Martin Duckworth, Canadian Documentary Director and Cinematographer. "A delightful and often painful memoir on her experience of the Nakba in Jaffa by Nawal Halawa, who provides profound insights into the beauty and tragedy of 'the Pearl of Palestine' before and after the Nakba of 1948. The author provides a deeply personal and at times poetic description of the near idyllic life pre-1948 rather than a political and social analysis. Perhaps this is the enduring value of her debut volume in English as it is an honest account of her tragedy and loss as she recaptures the feelings and events of her childhood. She concludes with her return to Jaffa after a forty-year absence only to find the beloved family home in painful disrepair." —Rev. Dr. Don Wagner, author of “Glory to God in the Lowest: Journeys to an Unholy Land”. "Nawal Halawa’s novel begins and ends with Jaffa. She describes her almost idyllic world of growing up in Jaffa before the Nakba with great passion—her home, her surroundings, the sea, the family. Through the rich descriptions of her relationships with several members of her family, especially her special relationship with her father and her exceptional relationship with her mother, we learn a lot about the society that no longer exists, except in memory. Her description of life in Jaffa before the Nakba and the tragic impact of her family’s forced displacement to Nablus after the Nakba gives us glimpses into both profound changes and continuity in Palestinian life and culture. Her deep and bittersweet return to Jaffa is both heart-warming and heart-wrenching, as the Jaffa she knew is no longer there, but will always live in her dreams." —Kathy Bergen, organizer and advocate for justice for Palestinians since 1982.

Nawal Halawa photo

Nawal Halawa grew up in pre-Nakba Jaffa herself, just like her character Sitt Zubaida. She was one of the first female journalists in the Middle East covering regional politics in the 1970s and 1980s. Halawa was inspired to write this story when she visited her hometown for the first time after more than 40 years, wanting to immortalize the memories that flooded her at every street corner and landmark. Much of Sitt Zubaida’s story comes from the author’s own childhood memories. The character is based on the author’s experiences and enriched by her mother’s memories and interviews with other Palestinians who experienced the Nakba. With this book, Halawa hopes that readers will gain an appreciation of the humanity of Palestinians, their rich and loving familial connections, and their hopes and dreams. Nawal Halawa has published five books in Arabic, including the story of Sitt Zubaida in 2014, which received the bestseller award at the Sharjah, Cairo, and Amman international book fair. Halawa founded Arab Cultural House in Montreal, which aims to promote Arabic culture through community engagement and activities.


Nawal Halawa
Nadeen Rayan
Jan Abushakrah

What People are Saying

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