Families In War: Novels by Susan Abulhawa & Jacqueline Sheehan

Two novels reveal the devastating impact of war on families and those families’ resilience in the face of tragedy. First, we talk with Susan Abulhawa about The Blue Between Sky And Water. Then, Jacqueline Sheehan talks about her new novel, The Center Of The World.
Susan Abulhawa
What happens when a people are expelled from their homeland? From their homes where bluetheir families tilled the land for centuries; where their ancestors are buried; where they had hoped to build bright futures for their children? How do they retain their humanity in the face of injustice? And how do they knit their lives and their families back together in spite of it?

All these questions come vividly alive in Susan Abulhawa’s new novel The Blue Between Sky And Water. It’s a powerful story about one Palestinian family, from their idyllic village life in pre-Israel Palestine, through expulsion by the new state of Israel in 1948 and then to exile in Gaza and the U.S.

Through it all runs the indomitable spirit of women — from the matriarch in Gaza who holds the family together in the face of the brutal israeli occupation to a young niece who returns to Palestine from a childhood spent in foster care in the US looking for her real home.

Susan Abulhawa’s first novel was the bestselling Mornings in Jenin. Now, in The Blue Between Sky And Water she immerses the reader in the rich lives of the characters in a way that forever shreds the ugly stereotypes of Palestinians and Muslim women so current in the West.

In addition to her writing, Susan Abulhawa also works with Playgrounds for Palestine, an organization she founded. Her parents were refugees of the 1967 War. In July she was denied entry into Gaza for a visit to her family by the Israeli regime.

Jacqueline Sheehan
The civil war in Guatemala raged for more than 30 years and killed an estimated 200,000 centerpeople. 83% of the victims were Mayan, mostly desperately poor villagers in the highlands. 200,000 is a statistic. But behind that number are the real people who suffered, died, or saw their families ripped apart by the violence.

Best-selling author Jacqueline Sheehan brings that reality to life in her new novel The Center Of The World. It tells the story of Kate Mallory, a young American scientist who rescues a baby from a massacre in which her mother has just been murdered. She brings the child to the US and raises her as her adopted daughter, Sofia. But seeking to shield Sofia from traumatic memories, she tells her a lie about her origins.

Twelve years later, that lie is blown apart by a stunning revelation — and Sofia embarks on a perilous journey to discover her hidden history. In the course of that journey, mother and daughter must find a way to confront the truth about each other and themselves — and re-build their relationship on a new foundation.

In addition to The Center of the World, Jacqueline Sheehan is the author of four previous novels. Three are part of a mystery series about a sleuth and her dog, Cooper; the first is a historical novel about Sojourner Truth.

Read an excerpt from The Center of the World

Watch an interview with Sheehan and her dog Cooper


About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.

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