Rummanah Aasi
 I'm not a big biography or memoir reader, but I am attracted to stories that go beyond the every day occurences of ones life. Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat is an award winning and critically acclaim biography that takes place in the Middle East and is written for young adults. No matter how much I read about the Middle East, I always seem to learn more. The memoir is an enjoyable, insightful, and quick read that inspires hope. I think it should be read by young adults as well as adult readers.

Description: A memoir in which the author describes her childhood as a Palestinian refugee, discussing her family's experiences during and after the Six-Day War, and the freedom she felt at learning to read and write.

Review: With simple yet incredibly moving sentences, Barakat transports us from the comfort of our own homes to a hostile, foreign environment. It's the first night of the 1967 Six-Day War, which pitted Israel against the Arab nations of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. It ended with the Israeli occupation of the Sinai and Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank (Source: Six-Day War. (2012). In World History: The Modern Era. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from
  Three-year-old Ibtisam and her family are uprooted from their home in the middle of the night, where the toddler hunts frantically for her lost shoe, loses her family as they join the throng of anxious Palestinians fleeing Ramallah into Jordan. Our hearts race and we become extremely anxious until the family is reunited after several desperate hours. With moments of harshness, stark reality comes this beautifully written memoir of the author's childhood on the Israeli-occupied West Bank. We learn first hand about what it's like to live in the backdrop of war and cultural displacement. The family endures poverty, separations and frequent relocation. Despite these hardships life seems to go on, by turns surprising, funny, heartbreaking and rich with possibility.
  In an overcrowded Jordanian school-room housing refugees, Ibtisam discovers Alef, the first letter of the Arab alphabet, and thus creates an intimate relationship between reading and writing, which allows her to spread her wings and imagination. Barakat and her brothers are courageous and curious, but they are not perfect by any means. Like all children, they find themselves in troubles, have their mischief ways to assert their strong wills in defiance of the authorities that govern their lives. While reading Tasting the Sky, I never felt as if the book was politically motivated, but rather a coming of age autobiography that focuses on family, culture, and identity in the part of the world is almost always misunderstood.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing war images and allusion to attempted sexual assault. There is also a chapter that talks about male circumcision that is important to the culture. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: The Flag of Childhood: Poems From the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye, A Little Piece of Ground by Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples
3 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I can't even imagine a childhood like this, and the thought of being separated from my family as we're frantically trying to flee the country is terrifying. Sounds like a compelling story all the way around Rummanah!

  2. This sounds like one of those reads that would have me anxious throughout. Just reading about the three old losing her shoes and her family made me sad I could put my daughter in her shoes since she just turned four yesterday. I do not not much about Israel and all the conflict and it is something I have endeavored to learn more about. Thanks for sharing this, Rummanah!

  3. I like that you said this didn't have a political feel to it. I love reading about other cultures and learning the history of them. But I don't like it when they have an agenda. Sounds like a great read.
    Thanks for letting us know about this one!


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