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Balcony On The Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine

Review

Balcony On The Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine

Ibtisam Barakat is a Palestinian-American bilingual author, poet, artist, translator and educator. BALCONY ON THE MOON: Coming of Age in Palestine is a companion book to Barakat’s TASTING THE SKY: A Palestinian Childhood. BALCONY ON THE MOON begins in 1971 where her first memoir concluded. The two books chronicle Barakat’s growing up in Israeli occupied Palestine, where Barakat notes several times in her book that her people live as refugees in their own country. BALCONY ON THE MOON specifically follows Barakat from second grade through her completion of high school. The book is divided into five sections based on the five different homes she lived in with her family and the years of their inhabitance.

"BALCONY ON THE MOON mixes the political, cultural, historical and spiritual in a poignant, provocative and comprehensible way for readers. I can best describe Barakat’s story in one word --- inspiring."

Barakat deals with so many issues in her memoir that most readers could most likely not begin to imagine how to navigate especially at such a young age. Her father suffers from narcolepsy and risks his life everyday when he goes to work as a truck driver. One of the most heart wrenching moments for Barakat and her family is when they all accompany him in his truck on a possible suicide attempt. In a highly conservative and traditional culture, Barakat struggles to assert her own independence and self-sufficiency in her passionate pursuit of her education. In an unjust world, she seeks justice for people of all ages, gender, nationality and religion. She quotes from the Declaration of Human Rights to her parents in order to fight for her right to work at 12 years old.  Barakat is endlessly wise beyond her years in her reflections on the world around her. She notes that bravery is something usually encouraged amongst boys in her culture. In her coming-of-age journey, Barakat learns girls can be brave as well even if society does not think so.

Barakat’s first-person narrative voice is one that will stick with me long after reading her book. She writes from the perspective of her younger self with simplistic explanations of complex situations. In a calm and nurturing voice, Barakat educates the reader about her world amidst her own confusion and struggles to understand. She questions her faith, her nationality and societal norms in her pursuit of her own opinions and standards. Through Barakat’s intricate explanations and reflections, I was never left feeling lost. Instead, I would describe Barakat’s writing as deeply satisfying because of her beautifully poetic and highly informative language. For fans of Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS, I would highly recommend BALCONY ON THE MOON.

BALCONY ON THE MOON mixes the political, cultural, historical and spiritual in a poignant, provocative and comprehensible way for readers. I can best describe Barakat’s story in one word --- inspiring.  I also found it interesting how Barakat did not just inspire me but how she inspired family and friends in her story. Through her own passion for education, her mother who had dropped out of school before eighth grade to marry her husband eventually pursues her own education again. Barakat’s memoir awarded me a new perspective and new knowledge about a previously unknown culture and history, which I will be forever grateful for.

Reviewed by Catherine Rubino on November 15, 2016

Balcony On The Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine
by Ibtisam Barakat