Most people would agree that it is important for parents to instil a sense of national and cultural identity in their children in order to preserve their heritage for future generations, especially for those from immigrant or refugee families. The Palestinian diaspora and others living in the western world are no exception.
There aren't many English-language children's books related to Palestine; perhaps the most notable in recent times was P is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book, which was shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards in 2018. It caused some controversy by not shying away from the realities of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
Yet the debut book by Rifk Ebeid (who is of Palestinian descent), Baba, What does my name mean? A Journey to Palestine goes beyond the letters of the alphabet and is therefore geared to a slightly older age, making it an ideal story for bedtime. In fact, the book opens with a young Palestinian refugee girl called Saamidah who, after being tucked into bed by her father, quite typically asks him the meaning of her name. She had been asked this by her friends at school that day.
"We named you this because you are a PALESTINIAN," Saamidah's father explains. "Your name carries the weight of a nation beloved to millions." What follows is a vivid and nostalgic journey into historic Palestine as our young protagonist is handed a key from her Baba's necklace, this being a potent symbol of every exiled Palestinian's aspiration to fulfil the legitimate right to return to their homeland, while accompanied by a helpful white dove of peace, appropriately named "Salaam".
This book is on the recommend list for the Palestine Book Awards 2020, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine book awards site.