The Lilac Girl
by Ibtisam Barakat (author), Sinan Hallak (illustrator)
Inspired by the life story of Palestinian artist, Tamam Al-Akhal, The Lilac Girl is the sixth book for younger readers by award-winning author, Ibtisam Barakat.
The Lilac Girl is a beautifully illustrated short story relating the departure of Palestinian artist and educator, Tamam Al-Akhal, from her homeland, Jaffa. It portrays Tamam as a young girl who dreams about returning to her home, which she has been away from for 70 years, since the Palestinian exodus.
Tamam discovers that she is talented in drawing, so she uses her imagination to draw her house in her mind. She decides one night to visit it, only to find another girl there, who won’t allow her inside and shuts the door in her face. Engulfed in sadness, Tamam sits outside and starts drawing her house on a piece of paper. As she does so, she notices that the colors of her house have escaped and followed her; the girl attempts to return the colors but in vain. Soon the house becomes pale and dull, like the nondescript hues of bare trees in the winter. Upon Tamam’s departure, she leaves the entire place drenched in the color of lilac.
As a children’s story, The Lilac Girl works on multiple levels, educating with its heart-rending narrative but without preaching, accurately expressing the way Palestinians must have felt by not being allowed to return to their homeland. As the story’s central character, Tamam succeeds on certain levels in defeating the occupying forces and intruders through her yearning, which is made manifest through the power of imaginary artistic expression. In her mind she draws and paints a picture of hope, with colors escaping the physical realm of her former family abode, showing that they belong, not to the invaders, but the rightful occupiers of that dwelling.
Far from being the only person to have lost their home and endured tremendous suffering, Tamam’s plight is representative of millions of people both then and now, emphasizing the notion that memories of our homeland live with us for eternity, no matter how far we are from them in a physical sense. The yearning to return home never subsides, never lessens with the passing of time but, with artistic expression, it is possible to find freedom and create beauty out of pain.
Greek rights - Strange Days Books
Winner of the 2020 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Children’s Literature
From Banipal Magazine:
By recreating her childhood home in the city of Jaffa in a rainbow of colours, young Tamam finds freedom in the world of art and imagination. She creates beauty from pain and transforms loss in a powerful but simple story that challenges the injustice of being forced to leave one’s home and not allowed to see it again.
The Lilac Girl is a magical realism children’s tale, written as a tribute to the life and work of renowned Palestinian artist Tamam al-Akhal (1935- ). As a young Palestinian girl, the narrator tells us, Tamam has a deep sorrow in her heart “that rises and sets like the colors of the dawn and the dusk”. This sorrow is her yearning for her childhood home in Jaffa, from which she has been separated “by a disaster and seventy years of sorrow”.
Tamam sets out one night, in her imagination, to visit her childhood home in the city of Jaffa, which she was driven out of with her family in 1948. When she knocks on the door, a shudder of recognition courses through the house: the windows, the door, and all things in the house tremble in excitement when seeing Tamam. But the girl who answers the door refuses to let Tamam in. After turning away in despair, Tamam decides to paint a picture of her long-lost home, using her tears that now fall in every color, only to see that the colours of the house itself have begun running after her, stripping it bare of colour like a tree shorn of its autumn leaves.
The only colour that remains in Jaffa after Tamam’s magical departure is a blend of the red of rage, the blue of despair, and the yellow of defeat, all of which combine into a lilac hue that tints Tamam’s house and the city of Jaffa the long night through.
Ibtisam Barakat is a bilingual Palestinian-American poet, artist, translator, educa- tor and the author of the critically acclaimed memoirs, Tasting the Sky, a Palestinian Childhood (FSG/2007) and Balcony on the Moon, Coming of Age in Palestine (FSG/Macmillan 2016). The two memoirs combined won more than thirty awards and honors, including the International Reading Association’s best book award; the Middle East Council’s best book award, and the Arab-American Museum’s best book award. Her Arabic language books include The Letter Ta’ Escapes, which won the Euro-Mediterranean Anna Lindh Foundation’s best book award for children’s books in Arabic. Her most recent books include The Jar that became a Galaxy, which was the title for Palestine’s national reading campaign in 2019, and The Lilac Girl.
Sheikh Zayed Book Award
The SZBA is presented to writers, intellectuals and publishers whose writings and translations of humanities have enriched Arab cultural, literary and social life.View all titles
- Publisher Tamer Institute for Community Education
- Orginal LanguageArabic
- ISBN/Identifier 9789950270206
- Publish StatusPublished
- Original Language TitleAl-Fatah Al- Laylakeyyah
- Copyright Year2019
Sheikh Zayed Book Award has chosen to review this offer before it proceeds.
You will receive an email update that will bring you back to complete the process.
You can also check the status in the My Offers area
Please wait while the payment is being prepared.
Do not close this window.