The Wind in My Hair
Salwa Salem with Laura Maritano; translated by Yvonne Freccero
5 1/4" x 8" • 224 pages
ISBN 9781566566636 • paperback • $15.00 •
"A smoothly written memoir... succeeds because it skillfully interweaves a history of the Palestinian longing for nationhood and a personal story of a courageous Arab woman activist... This memoir is recommended for its portrayal of a warm, intense woman who struggled to shape an independent self within a conservative family and culture and for its moving description of the dehumanizing character of Israeli military rule over Palestinians."
-- Library Journal
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The Wind in My Hair is the memoir of Salwa Salem, who was just eight years old when she and many other Palestinians were uprooted by the Zionists in al-Nakba (the catastrophe). After her family fled to Jaffa and then to Nablus, she spent the rest of her life in exile: in Damascus, Kuwait, Vienna, and finally, Italy. Salem’s story of displacement and exile is in one sense the story of all Palestinians; her account of her own political engagement and that of members of her own family tells the political history of an embattled people.
But she is no token Palestinian; she is, above all, her own person: a courageous and vital woman who claimed the right to be free to choose her work and her husband; to read Kafka and Simone de Beauvoir alongside Arab literature; to love both opera and the songs of Fairouz; to be involved in politics and have a family.
If the particular pitch of this memoir derives from its deathbed narration (as Salem lay dying of cancer, she dictated the story of her life to Laura Maritano), it is the memoir’s precision, its judicious balance of the personal and the political, that triumphs over any individual or national tragedy. Salem refuses to be simply a victim—of war, of political injustice, of sickness—but embraces life passionately to the end, and in doing so, has left the world the gift of her life story.
Salwa Salem was born in 1940 at Kafr Zibˆd, Palestine, and spent her childhood first in Jaffa and then in Nablus, where her family took refuge following the Arab–Israeli war of 1948. After studying philosophy at the University of Damascus, she spent most of her life in Parma, Italy, where she died in 1992.
Laura Maritano was born in Turin in 1965. She has a degree in literature with a concentration in cultural anthropology as it relates to the Arab world and in particular the Palestinian question. She also participated in a research project on Italian memoirs from the Nazi concentration camps.
Yvonne Freccero has translated widely from French, Italian, and Spanish, including several works by Rene Girard. She lives in Florence, Massachusetts.
"The Wind in My Hair remains a fascinating autobiography by an extraordinary woman. Written in a flowing conversational tone, Salwa Salem's memoir enages its readers while Yvonne Freccero's masterful translation renders Salem familiar to her English-speaking audience. Powerful and compelling, The Wind in My Hair deserves a place of importance beside other modern autobiographies by Middle Eastern women.
"A posthumously published recollection about life as a Palestinian exile...much of the prose is direct, spare and stirring in its simplicity...Evocative and discomforting, and relevant to contemporary clashes in the Middle East."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"This smoothly written memoir, dictated to Salem's friend Maritano while the author was undergoing an unsuccessful treatment for cancer (she died in 1992; this is the first translation), succeeds because it skillfully interweaves a history of the Palestinian longing for nationhood and a personal story of a courageous Arab woman activist. Salem remembers fleeing her home in Jaffa when Israel was formed in 1948, the frustration of Palestinians living under Jordanian rule on the West Bank, and the daily suffering after Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967. She conveys both the idealism and the futility of Palestinian political strivings, along with the anger and despair that led to the uprising (intifada) in 1987. Even more engaging is her story of becoming an active intellectual and professional woman, defying her traditional Arab family's expectations and traveling to Kuwait for work and financial independence and then to Europe for marriage. Italy became her home, first by choice, and then because Israeli occupation barred her return, but she never abandoned a Palestinian identity for herself and her children. This memoir is recommended for its portrayal of a warm, intense woman who struggled to shape an independent self within a conservative family and culture and for its moving description of the dehumanizing character of Israeli military rule over Palestinians."
-- Library Journal
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