Banipal Book Club: ‘Things I Left Behind,’ by Shada Mustafa, tr. Nancy Roberts
May 25, 2022 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
This is young Palestinian author Shada Mustafa’s debut novel – a free-flowing narrative that interrogates, in short, direct sentences, the memories of growing up, falling in love, that keep forcing themselves out to be reckoned with. Through ceaseless questioning, and the seemingly random revisiting of each of the four “things” she has left behind, the narrator redeems her life from the inexplicable pain and tragic anguish that was her childhood in an occupied and divided land and family.
In so doing, Mustafa creates a unique writing style while at the same time allowing the narrative its original, cathartic function, liberating herself from her past, and finding her true self.
Why was she always having to cross the Qalandia checkpoint to see her dad or her mom? Why did they divorce? Why was her mom angry? How could she make her happy? Why was her dad a different man when he came out of the occupier’s prison? What was more important, the cause or the people? The questions become more urgent when she becomes a student and falls in love.
This short novel, original in its subject as much as its narrative technique, has been singled out from the start by being shortlisted for the 2021 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Young Authors.