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Memories of Home: Beit Daras

Palestin,-March-2015_2015_03_03_0036-(2)In this post, our Palestianian author, Ghada Ageel, describes the emotional impact of never being able to return to your home. Her family has lived in the Khan Younis camp in Gaza for three generations now. Ghada Ageel is the editor of Apartheid in Palestine: Hard Laws and Harder Experiences.

In the 1980s, my grandmother visited Beit Daras. In great shock at the level of destruction and unable to locate her home, Khadija asked her son Abdlehakeem to leave her alone for some time. She started to walk around the beautiful village that had completely vanished.

Palestin,-March-2015_2015_03_03_0043-(3)She first found the old quarry, overrun with sand and overgrown with grasses. Then she recognized a small part of the mosque’s foundation. Finally, she located her home. A part of the wall from her house remained. She hugged the wall and rubble and sobbed over her sweet home with all its memories, which had become a pile of small stones.

She alsoVillage only stnading wall wept where the sycamore tree no longer grew—a place where she used to rest every day. After returning to Khan Younis from Beit Daras, she was sick for a month, and she then understood the reason why her father did not visit his village after the expulsion.

When my grandmother speaks about her home and village, there is always a magic flash in her eyes—something that I didn’t understand for years. In 2004, I began to comprehend the connection. That year, the home of my closest friend, Sahar, was demolished.

Ghada on the ruins of her best friend's home

To stand in the rubble of this home—a place that had witnessed the best days of my childhood—was devastating. In her home, which was just a few streets from my own, I had learned the meaning of love, care, and true friendship. It vanished in an instant under a Caterpillar bulldozer. As her family moved out of the camp in search of a new home, we were separated from each other. All that remains are memories—some good, some bad. Among the latter, is my memory of Sahar’s home vanishing in an instant. How many Palestinians have died in defence of their homes?

In summer 2014, similar to 2012 and 2008 aggressions on Gaza, Israel repeatedly systematically targeted the Palestinian infrastructure. The goal was to make the loss and the punishment a collective one. The Israeli forces shelled clinics, schools, homes, offices, factories, mosques, hospitals, shelters, bridges, orphanages, power stations, water wells, and stadiums. In this aggression, I wept for the ninety-six thousand homes that were bombed—for the homes that I knew and for other homes that I did not know.

I wept for bridges. Yes, I wept especially for the bridge that used to connect Gaza City and the Nusairat camp. I travelled over that bridge hundreds of times. My tears were seemingly endless. I wondered whether my weeping would ever cease. My grandmother said her tears were the same when Beit Daras was destroyed in 1948.

Palestin,-March-2015_2015_03_03_0027-(2)In the 1970s, a few years after Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, refugees were allowed to visit their villages. When my great-grandfather was asked why he had not done so, he told my grandmother that he would prefer to die rather than walk on the ruins of his home and village. My house, he said in a choked voice, “is my flesh, my sweat, my blood and my bone. It’s me, the broken human being you see now. How do you expect to walk on your body?” He then turned his back on my grandmother to hide the tears that she could still feel. Nothing in this life is harder than walking on the rubble of one’s own home. It is one of the harshest and most painful things that can happen in life. Home is a sense of belonging, safety, and comfort, and a place of life’s memories, whether sweet or bitter. When the Israeli occupiers began to carry out their policy of house demolition, they knew this operation was going to be one of the most painful punishments for the Palestinians. They knew it would hit them in the heart. Palestin,-March-2015_2015_03_03_0035-(2)

When I saw my grandmother following the Israeli attacks on Gaza in August 2014, she was unusually happy. She looked at me and my children—Tarek, who was fourteen, and Aziz, six—and, to my surprise, she said that she was no longer worried about Beit Daras. Neither was she worried about the water well, the land, the farms, and the sycamore trees, nor about the passage of time and the future that she’s wanted for so long.

Then she said, “For many years, I felt as if I were walking alone. And as you know walking alone is not a pleasant way to make a journey. Now, because of my age, I cannot walk, but I’m not alone anymore. I can now rest in peace even if I am not yet in Beit Daras. I now know that Beit Daras is in your heart, and I also know that you are not alone in your journey. Don’t be discouraged. We are getting there.

Featured Reviews of “100 Days”

“Bitek’s ability to connect with the beauty and pain of human suffering seems 9781772121216supernatural, this ability to give voice to those who seem to have no voices. Bitek wrote this book with her blood and it shows…. Bitek is a gifted seer, she sees tomorrow with a sweet but earthy, guttural voice, voice of the masquerade…. [Bitek] takes the reader to places in the heart that the writer never intended or imagined. That is powerful, how she makes 100 Days a deeply personal journey to each reader.” Pa Ikhide, February 28, 2016 [Full post at http://xokigbo.com/2016/02/28/juliane-okot-bitek-100-days-of-hells-anomie/]

“Fierce in their grief but filled with tentative hope, they are not so much commemorative as they are insistent in their unwillingness to forget.” [Full post at https://www.one.org/us/2016/03/02/10-african-novels-you-need-on-your-bookshelf/.]

There has never been a better time than right now to be a reader of African literature: 25 New Books by African Writers You Should Read

University of Alberta Press: Awards!

Authors and staff of the University of Alberta Press have many achievements to celebrate from the first months of 2016.

Alice Major is over the moon about her book of poetry, Standard candles, being shortlisted for two awards: the League of Canadian Poets’ Raymond Souster Award and the Alberta Literary Awards’ Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry.

Jalal Barzanji is also in the running for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry for Trying Again to Stop Time.

We were delighted to see our designer, Alan Brownoff, bring home two major awards in the international AAUP Book, Jacket & Journal Show, for his work on Trying Again to Stop Time and A Canadian Girl in South Africa: A Teacher’s Experiences in the South African War, 1899–1902, by E. Maud Graham and edited by Michael Dawson, Catherine Gidney, and Susanne M. Klausen.

Arni Brownstone, author of War Paintings of the Tsuu T’ina Nation, was shortlisted for the prestigious Melva J. Dwyer Award.

Myrl Coulter, author of A Year of Days, won an Independent Publisher Book Award.

Kathryn Merrett, author of Why Grow Here: Essays on Edmonton’s Gardening History, and Myrl Coulter (A Year of Days) both won INDIEFAB Book of the Year awards.  Two other UAlberta Press authors were shortlisted in this competition: Trevor W. Harrison for Prairie Bohemian: Frank Gay’s Life in Music and Roberta Laurie for Weaving a Malawi Sunrise: A Woman, A School, A People.

Shawna Ferris, author of Street Sex Work and Canadian Cities: Resisting a Dangerous Order, was shortlisted for the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book in the Manitoba Book Awards.

And last but not least, Peter Midgley, our senior editor, was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize for Unquiet Bones (Wolsak & Wynn).

Linda Cameron, Director of the University of Alberta Press, said, “I am always proud when our books receive awards for content and design. We work with remarkable people who trust us to publish their special stories and outstanding scholarship. We commit fully to these projects and it is always rewarding to see others recognize the creators’ achievements and the UAlberta Press team’s efforts to showcase the books.”

For a complete listing of awards, see our website.

Literary Cocktails 2016

Literary Cocktails proved to be a very popular event, yet again! Last year we moved from the cozy Papaschase Room of the Faculty Club to the elegant and spacious Winspear Room with its wonderful view of the river valley.

With the early arrival of Spring, there must have been something in the air to enhance the magic of poetry. The three readers and the collections couldn’t have been more different, yet they worked remarkably well together. From stars to molecules, from Uganda to the Canadian Prairies, from homelessness to genocide, many topics were covered and emotions ran high. Anger, sadness, hope, and the beauty of images and words took listeners from high to low to high again.

Thank you, Alice Major [Standard candles], Richard Therrien [Sleeping in Tall Grass], and Juliane Okot Bitek [100 Days] for sharing your poetry, and Dennis Cooley [The Home Place] for emceeing the event.

A big thank you goes out to John Acorn, who provided a brilliant sound system; the Faculty Club for the wonderful food; and particularly all of those who joined us this year to celebrate with us and support the Edmonton Poetry Festival. (We missed Jerome Martin and Ted Bishop, our musicians, who couldn’t make it. We’ll catch them for next year!)

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Second Edition of “Grant Notley” Hard at Work

The Federal NDP Convention was held in Edmonton at the Shaw Conference Centre. 800 delegates from around the country attended, and we were fortunate to get a table to sell Grant Notley: The Social Conscience of Alberta, Second Edition. Author Howard Leeson joined me at the table to sign copies. Here are his comments about the event.

At the federal NDP convention in Edmonton in early April a number of people who had worked with Grant Notley–former Leader of the Official Opposition and father of the present Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley–got together for a mini reunion. The reunion resulted from the sale of a new edition of the book on Mr. Notley. Many New Democrats at the convention were interested in the history of Mr. Notley’s involvement in Alberta politics and were happy to buy the book. All royalties from the book are going to the Grant Notley scholarship at the University of Alberta.

Bill Dryden – Provincial Secretary of the NDP in Alberta in 1972 and 1973. Later, Chief of Staff to Grant Notley in 1984. David Elliott – Provincial organizer for the NDP in Alberta from 1973 to 1975. Ede Leeson – worked with the Alberta NDP from 1970 to 1977, as a Calgary organizer, convention organizer, and Provincial Council member. Howard Leeson – first executive assistant to Grant Notley in the legislature, provincial secretary for the NDP in Alberta from 1973 to 1975, provincial president from 1975 to 1979, and author of the book. Ted Chudyk – worked with Grant Notley from 1968 to 1971 as a fundraiser and close friend and figures prominently in the book. Reg Basken – Provincial Treasurer for the Alberta NDP during the 1970s and longtime member of the NDP.

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Books by their covers… or what’s a footnote for?

The University of Alberta Press has published many of Alice Major’s poetry collections; four, to be precise. The latest, Standard candles, inspired two blog posts by Alice that we’d like to share here, with her permission, of course.

Many-a-things make a book, and Alice’s reflections touch on two of the elements: footnotes and covers. She muses:

It’s a little embarrassing to be a poet who needs notes to her poems. Ten pages of them in Standard candles – good grief, Alice, are you writing poetry or an academic paper? 


There’s nothing quite like the first sight of your book cover—and the artwork that a designer has chosen for it. It’s like catching an unexpected reflection in a mirror and, slightly surprised, thinking, ‘Oh! That’s me?’

We’d like to take the opportunity to congratulate Alice: Standard candles is on the League of Canadian Poet’s shortlist for the 2016 Raymond Souster Award.

Other UAP books by Alice: The Office Tower Tales, The Occupied World, Memory’s Daughter, and her non-fiction book, Intersecting Sets.


Alice Major will be one of the readers at our Literary Cocktails on April 20 @ 4:00 pm. Please join us at the Faculty Club, and hear poems by Juliane Okot Bitek [100 Days] and Richard Therrien [Sleeping in Tall Grass]. The event’s MC will be Dennis Cooley, who also has a new book – The Home Placethat has just been published by UAP.

University of Alberta Press Expands Commitment to the North with Polynya Press Imprint

The University of Alberta Press (UAP) is introducing Polynya Press, a new imprint. Pronounced “puh-lin-ya,” the new imprint launched with the publication of Idioms of Sámi Health and Healing, edited by Barbara Helen Miller. The book is one of the Patterns of Northern Traditional Healing Series, overseen by series editor Earle Waugh.

Linda Cameron, Director of the University of Alberta Press and chair of the Polynya Press Committee, talked about the new imprint. “We were attracted by the definition of the word ‘polynya’ as seasonally open water leads in sea ice. These areas are culturally and economically important for people living in the North. They are places for finding one’s way. The definition signals the objectives we have for the imprint.”

Roger Epp, UAP’s new acquiring editor (Northern Studies), was pleased to learn of the new imprint. “The University of Alberta, based as it is in Edmonton, Canada’s largest northern city, is committed to fostering knowledge about and development in northern regions. I’m very pleased to take an active part in this endeavour.”

Some months ago, UAP acquired CCI Press, a well-regarded publisher of northern research materials. “I can now announce that UAP is in the process of creating 70 CCI Press titles as Open Access files, which will soon be available free of charge from the UAP website,” said Gerald Beasley, Vice-Provost & Chief Librarian at the University of Alberta.

With this latest commitment, UAP continues to provide and promote scholarship in both print and electronic formats to communities at the local, national, and international levels.






Linda Cameron, Director, University of Alberta Press
linda.cameron@ualberta.ca, 780-492-0717

Roger Epp, Acquiring Editor (Northern Studies)
repp@ualberta.ca, 780-492-2365


University of Alberta Press Influence Map

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