Praise for the Women of the Family

Praise for the Women of the Family

Mahmoud Shukair

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In the wake of resettlement from the desert to the hills overlooking Jerusalem, aging Bedouin patriarch Mannan wants his son Muhammad al-Asghar (the Youngest) to take on leadership and hold the clan together. But the youngest of eighteen sons is unable to follow in his father’s footsteps. Like others in the al-Abd al-Lat clan, he is torn between old customs and new choices.

Muhammad al-Asghar is married—with affection and loyalty—to open-minded Sanaa, a childless divorcee. He works as a clerk in a sharia court, recording marriage contracts and divorce papers. But he wants to become a writer and gets drawn into stories: of his mate, of unhappy co-wives in the sharia court, of his storytelling mother Wadha (his father’s sixth wife), of his brothers and relatives. Listening to them, he becomes aware of the impossibility of equality for women in a clan culture caught in the grip of a suffocating foreign occupation, following the Palestinian exodus of 1948. And while he fails to bring the clan together, as his father had hoped, he manages to honor Mannan’s legacy request and record the life of the clan.

A family album imbued with disaster, warmth and humor, Praise for the Women of the Family captures vivid snapshots of shifting intimate bonds, taken in the shadow of the patriarch by a youngest son, in search of his ­people’s story.

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