Best Fiction Book: “A Curious Land” by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Susan Muaddi Darraj’s “A Curious Land: Stories from Home” is a collection of nine linked short stories about the Palestinian West Bank villagers of Tel al-Hilou. (Full disclosure: Muaddi Darraj guest edited our recent “Fiction and Poetry” issue.) Spanning from 1916 to 1998, each story is set in the days just prior to a monumental political upheaval in the life of the inhabitants, but the impending geopolitical chaos is a backdrop—integral to events and omnipresent but secondary to these intimate portraits of family life. For example, in ‘Intifada Love Story’ which takes place in 1988, four Israeli solders set up an outpost on the roof of a Palestinian family’s home, trapping the family inside for days and pushing their troubling interpersonal histories to a fraught surface. Together, the compelling tales by this eloquent feminist paint a rich picture of how external political turmoil shapes our daily lives and, in peculiar ways, how it both binds and separates us all.

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