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In 1987, the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza rose up against their occupier, Israel, in what would later be called “The First Intifada.” The resistance would last 6 years. Fugitive Dreams is the remarkable story of a 14-year-old boy who watched history unfold in his beloved Ramallah where he lived. Much has been written about this first uprising, most of it from political or historical points of view. But this ‘memory’ from Sameer, a young boy who lived through the resistance, then ultimately found his footprint in the US is breathtaking, because it’s more than a history lesson, it’s personal. 

‍    Ramsey (Sameer) begins the story when he’s 3 years old, writing about what happens to his Christian Palestinian family and their friends over 50 years of occupation. His beginning pages draw you into 70’s Ramallah, where you can smell the flowers, see the fig and olive trees, taste the food, and relish the quiet beauty of this city. The calls of the muezzin to prayer and the church bells ringing in services echo over the hills. 

‍    As he documents Sameer’s life over five decades, many questions are asked, then answered. What happened to the teenagers whose lives were uprooted, families torn apart, property destroyed, and education stopped? Why did the resistance stop in 1993? What did Palestinians gain from those 6 years of resistance? What has 50 years of occupation done to Ramallah? Jerusalem? What was it like to be Palestinian in the US after 9/11? What happens to a people who have lost their homeland and come to the US only to be marginalized again? Does he see a future for Palestine and the Palestinians?

‍    You’re going to want to read this book from beginning to end. I would put it down, then pick it back up, then reread many of the stories, because they are stunning testaments to ‘sumud’.  Ultimately, Fugitive Dreams is a story of “exiles, displaced persons, refugees, migrant workers, nomads, emigrants and wanderers – those who left their homes at gunpoint”…as well as a book of hope, determination, and forgiveness. 

—Greta Berlin, Co-Founder, the Free Gaza movement

A profound fictional portrayal of Palestinian life and struggle, meticulously narrated so that one may confuse it with reality.

‍   As a Palestinian-American living in the cities of Al-Bireh and Ramallah, which are central to the plot, I wholeheartedly related to the intimate flirting with daily Palestinian life, in Palestine and abroad, rarely expressed.

‍   Fugitive Dreams makes me proud to be one of those ‘fictitious’ Palestinians who Israeli leaders refuse to see.

Sam Bahour, ePalestine

Fugitive Dreams whisks us along the streets and hills of Palestine, giving a glimpse of an occupied childhood witnessing an Intifada against a military power. The knock on the door, in the middle of the night, is all too familiar. The Nakba’s inherited trauma, the dislocation of statelessness and exile, the suspended evanescence of interim periods, and never-ending processes of “peace” are all there.

This Week in Palestine (read the full review)

Fugitive Dreams is as much a personal tale as it is a historical record. It’s as if I witnessed history unfolding before my eyes — your family, friends, classmates, and neighbors enduring, surviving, and resisting the systematic oppression facilitated by force, barricades, walls, resource deprivation, and more. Every individual in the book emerges as a hero, displaying a zest for life amid adversity.

‍   Amid my captivation by the deteriorating Palestinian situation, my concerns grew for Sameer and his family. Each page unveiled tense and intense circumstances, often leading to heart-pounding moments.  

‍  It is evident that Sameer embodies your aspirations and dreams, and I’ve accompanied him on train rides and flights, pondered his dilemmas during long walks, and shared in the joy and sorrow of his family and people as I turned the pages. Today, I feel a connection not just to the book but also to Palestine and your family.

‍  This explains why I invested time in reading Fugitive Dreams. I refrained from detailing specific locations, names, and events, as I wanted this letter to emanate from the heart — from a place of friendship, admiration, and kinship. I may revisit these words, for your book is a treasure, and more importantly, it’s a gift from you.

Ashok Subramanian, Author (read the full review)

‍  I had been to the Middle East but had never walked in the footsteps of someone who had been born into this miasma of oppression, frustration, fear, futility, and hope that is Palestine. I never had to experience what it was like to grow up stateless and mired in the constant struggle to exist in a world that needs everyone tied to a place with either real or institutional walls.

‍  I was engaged from the start of the book and had to see how it would end, even in a world where there is no end in sight. Hanhan’s suggestions toward the end would serve all of us, no matter what your challenges may be. I recommend this read to all who want to understand and honor all of the ‘others’ who people this Earth.

Ned Tillman, Author of Good Endeavour, The Big Melt and Saving the Places We Love (read the full review)

Fugitive Dreams brought back vivid memories of my own formative years, including the times we were able to drive freely throughout historic Palestine (albeit lacking civil rights) until Israel’s gradual imposition of draconian caging measures that not only began with the Intifada but accelerated during the so-called “peace process” that followed.

‍   Hanhan clearly portrays these life-changing times with a captivating innocence while simultaneously reminiscing about otherwise typical childhood experiences such as being roughed up by a neighborhood bully, having a crush on a neighbor (and on a Soviet gymnast competing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics), and the agony of being “shortchanged” because our high school in Ramallah did not become co-ed until his junior year.

‍   In vividly describing his childhood, including family road trips throughout Palestine, complete with the names of routes taken, and reliving the incidents that represented the gradual tightening of the noose of the occupation, Hanhan constructs a powerful retort to the much-peddled smear that Palestinians are “taught to hate.”

‍   Fugitive Dreams is one of the few books that would make a compelling read even for those of us very familiar with the question of Palestine; the fact that I read most of it while on my own visit to Ramallah this summer made it ever more impressionable. While retelling a deeply familiar history, Hanhan articulates long-held sentiments many of us learned to bury, whether to adapt to life abroad or to merely survive under occupation at home. As such, I highly recommend Hanhan’s debut literary project.

Jareer Kassis, Mondoweiss (read the full review)

Fugitive Dreams … was like a muffled scream. A scream that comes from the mouths of an entire generation. A generation, lost in time and space, of a handful of Palestinian men, women, and children who have migrated to a distant land with a distant dream. This book is full of shocking, poignant, and sublime moments, and it is delightfully fascinating, vividly evocative, and emotionally honest throughout. In addition to this, it is very generous as it is brimming with life, ideas, and characters, and it sheds light on the kinds of immigrant experiences that so many people go through but which are so seldom depicted in contemporary literature.

The Bookish Elf (read the full review)