It’s Christmas Eve in London and Heba Hayek’s narrator is looking to bake something that reminds her of home. She settles for basbousa, a coconut yoghurt semolina cake, which translates as ‘little kiss.’
“No one should be this far,” she thinks to herself at the end of a video call in which her father and mother argue over whether she should add cream to the top or middle of the cake.
Heba’s narrator was born in Palestine and has now moved abroad to study where she is trying to navigate her feelings of being a foreigner in a strange land and memories of home.
Sambac Beneath Unlikely Skies, published by Hajar Press, is a collection of vignettes on a girlhood in Gaza, fragments of intimate memories which flit between a homeland and a new land.
These memories are of her family being stopped at a checkpoint for questioning, hiding under the tables at school from the bombs and a window shattering over her face during one of the bombing campaigns.
“Never has anyone warned you about what it’s like to be a war child away from the war,” the narrator says, then later: “You will learn that even parents can’t protect your children from war.”
This book is on the shortlist for the Palestine Book Awards 2022, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine Book Awards site.