About the Book:
Once upon a time in Jerusalem tells the saga of a Palestinian family living in Jerusalem during the Britsh mandate, and its fate in the diaspora following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
The story is told by two voices: a mother, who was a child in Jerusalem in the 1930s, and her daughter, who comments on her mother's narrative. THe real hero of the narrative, however, is the family home in Jerusalem, which was built in the 15th century and which still stands today. within its walls lived the various members of the extended family whose stories the narrative reveals: parents, children, stepmothers, stepsisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and cousins.
This is no idealized, nostalgic narrative of perfect character or an idyllic past, but a truthful rendition of family life under occupation, in a holy city that was conservative to the extreme. Against a backdrop of violence, much social history revealed as an authoritarian father, a submissive mother, brothers who were resistance fighters, and an imaginative child struggled to lead a normal life amongst enemies. That became impossible in 1948, when the narrator, by then a young girl studying in Beirut, realized she could not go home. She travelled to Cairo where she had to start a new life under difficult conditions, and reconcile herself to the idea of exile.
Narrated in a terse, matter of fact tone, Once upon a time in Jerusalem is a bildungsroman in which the child is initiated into loss and despair, and a life about which little is known. The book shows a city of the 1930s from a new perspective: a cosmopolitan Jerusalem where people from all nations and faiths worshipped, married and lived together, until such co-existence came to an end and a new order was enforced.
About the author:
Sahar Hamouda is professor of English Literature at Alexandria University, and is currently Dean of the Faculty of Languages and Translation at Pharos University in Alexandria. She is also Director of the Alexandria Center for HellenisticStudies, and Deputy Director of the Alexandria and Mediterranean Research Center, both at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.