Palestinian author to speak at GVSU

Abulhawa will lead discussion on novel 'Mornings in Jenin'

By Peter Chhum | 3/9/14 6:40pm



Grand Valley State University will welcome author and novelist Susan Abulhawa on March 17. A Palestinian refugee, Abulhawa will share her perspective on the continuing Palestinian-Israeli conflict and lead a discussion on her book “Mornings in Jenin.”

The book is a historical novel that tells the story of two families — one indigenous to Palestine and the other made of European Jewish immigrants. The families’ fates become intertwined in the unending conflict between the two countries.

The novel gives a personal vision of what it’s like for Israelis and Palestinians to live through the ongoing struggle and gets to the heart of the tragedies most outsiders are only exposed to through newspaper headlines.

Abulhawa came to the U.S. as a child with her parents who are Palestinian refugees of the 1967 war. Their home in Jerusalem was claimed by Israel during the conflict.

Now, Abulhawa is one of the best-selling Palestinian authors in English as well as on a global scale. Since its first English-language publication in 2010, her novel has appeared in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Arabic and Chinese.

Abulhawa will speak at the Loosemore Auditorium on GVSU’s Pew Campus from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the non-profit organization Healing Children of Conflict with joining efforts from GVSU’s Middle East Studies program, Calvin College’s Middle East Club and GVSU’s Peace M.E.ans organization.

David Alvarez, an English professor of language and literature at GVSU, played an integral role in bringing Abulhawa to West Michigan.

“Students will get a more realistic understanding of why this conflict still goes on and more than what we tend to get on networks and mass media,” Alvarez said. “They will learn the perspective of a Palestinian writer who is also an American. (She) humanizes both sides in the conflict through her novel but also makes it very clear — Palestinians have a right to be recognized.”

Peace M.E.ans, a student organization dedicated to raising awareness and promoting discussion on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, welcomes Abulhawa as another opportunity to spark conversation.

“Any conflict is composed of a chorus of discussion and many voices are dissonant,” said Meagan Roche, president of Peace M.E.ans. “These speakers not only present the conflict to those that may not know about it, but they also voice opinions that help more informed individuals understand the issue more deeply, particularly if they present the issue from a different slant than they believe themselves.”

Healing Children of Conflict is a volunteer project of the Arab American Association of West Michigan. The organization provides medical care to children who have been injured in American conflicts overseas and also educates the community on the topic of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Prior to speaking at the Loosemore Auditorium, Abulhawa will be at Schuler Books located at 2660 28th St. in Grand Rapids from 10 a.m. to noon.

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