The winners of 2022's Palestine Book Awards (PBA) were announced on Friday evening in an event in London to recognise authors and their contributions to literature on the subject of Palestine.
Seven books were handpicked by the panel of judges and saw their authors presented with awards in five categories.
The 11th PBA was held in person for the first time since 2019, after COVID forced MEMO to host the event online. The awards ceremony followed an informal event held yesterday at London's P21 Gallery, in which authors of the nine shortlisted books discussed their work with the audience and participated in a lively debate.
The 2022 Palestine Book Awards ceremony was opened by British journalist, author and former associate foreign editor of The Guardian, Victoria Brittain.
2022 Winners of 11th Palestine Book Awards announced
Creative Award Winners
Heba Hayek – Sambac Beneath Unlikely Skies
Mosab Abu Toha – Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza
Academic Award Winners
Ashjan Ajour – Reclaiming Humanity in Palestinian Hunger Strikes: Revolutionary Subjectivity and Decolonizing the Body
Lara Sheehi and Stephen Sheehi – Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Practising Resistance in Palestine
Lynn Welchman – Al-Haq: A Global History of the First Palestinian Human Rights Organization
Counter Currents Award Winner
Saree Makdisi – Tolerance Is a Wasteland: Palestine and the Culture of Denial
Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
Brittain thanked MEMO's Director Dr Daud Abdullah, the organisation's staff, the judges and the shortlisted authors in her speech. She mentioned the ongoing Israeli occupation and the thousands of Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees still under detention, stating that they are enabled by "indifference from Washington and London", who remain the "biggest supporters" of the occupation.
Brittain praised the PBA, its staff and its authors as "voices [that] are a great hope against tyranny everywhere" and emphasised that they have significant support from the wider Global South.
Distinguished Political Economist and Senior Research Scholar at Harvard University's Centre for Middle Eastern Studies Sara Roy then addressed the audience, speaking about the importance of ensuring that Palestine continues to feature in such events and books.
Roy spoke about her life and work in Palestine, reflecting on the lives of her family, who survived the Holocaust, and on the lives of Palestinians living under occupation. In doing so, she offered powerful connections between her past and present, exploring themes of terror, hunger and humanity.
This year's Academic Award was presented to a number of authors, including Ashjan Ajour for her "path-breaking study of one of the most critical aspects of Palestinian resistance" in Reclaiming Humanity in Palestinian Hunger Strikes, and Lara and Stephen Sheehi for their Psychoanalysis Under Occupation, which shows how psychoanalysis in the context of Palestinian lives under Israeli occupation "can mean life or death."
Lynn Welchman won the same award for Al-Haq, A Global History of the First Palestinian Human Rights Organisation, which studies the creation and development of the rights group that has: "For 40 years challenged Israeli policies of stripping away Palestinian rights and changed the outside world's perceptions of a shocking reality."
The Translation Award was given to Dalia and Mouin Rabbani for their work on MEMO cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh's book Power Born of Dreams, a unique artistic creation showcasing scenes that Palestinians under occupation are subjected to on a regular basis. The judges described the translation accompanying the artwork as "first class".
Addressing the audience, Sabaaneh gave an effective and resonating speech in which he expressed opposition to attempts to discourage him from returning to the West Bank due to potential dangers. "We are travelling to fight, to resist, to create a life for the next Palestinian generation," he insisted, igniting applause from the audience.
Two winners were awarded the Creative Award: Heba Hayek for her book Sambac Beneath Unlikely Skies – a novel depicting a young girl's life in the Gaza Strip and exile in Europe – and Mosab Abu Toha for his compilation of poetry from Gaza, entitled Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza.
Saree Makdisi, Arab-American literary critic and professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCLA, won the Counter Currents Award for his offering, Tolerance is a Wasteland, which exposes the deep contradictions between Israel's public image and the everyday realities of Palestinians under occupation. Judges aptly ruled it: "A fine exploration of how a culture of denial is manufactured for the comfort of liberals."
The evening ended with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Keynote Speaker Roy. Roy previously won a PBA award, having written extensively on the Palestinian economy and its decline over the decades.
MEMO's much-anticipated flagship annual PBA event results from months of dedication by the team and years of literary work by the authors.
Nominations start in January with submissions from national and international publishers. To submit books published in English on the topic of Palestine for consideration for next year's awards, visit the Palestine Book Awards website, where the opening date for next year's awards will be listed in the new year.