Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood

by Ibtisam Barakat


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"When a war ends it does not go away," my mother says."It hides inside us . . . Just forget!"

But I do not want to do what Mother says . . . I want to remember.

In this groundbreaking memoir set in Ramallah during the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, Ibtisam Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war. With candor and courage, she stitches together memories of her childhood: fear and confusion as bombs explode near her home and she is separated from her family; the harshness of life in the Middle East as a Palestinian refugee; her unexpected joy when she discovers Alef, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. This is the beginning of her passionate connection to words, and as language becomes her refuge, allowing her to piece together the fragments of her world, it becomes her true home.

Transcending the particulars of politics, Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood is an illuminating and timely book that provides a telling glimpse into a part of the Middle East that has become an increasingly important part of the puzzle of world peace.

Winner of the Arab American National Museum Book Award for Children's/YA Literature

“In vivid, beautiful prose, Ibtisam Barakat transports readers into a place few Westerners have ever seen—the interior life of a young girl and her family in the occupied West Bank. This book, appropriate for readers young and old, holds literature’s great power: the power to humanize the ‘other,’ and to therefore change the way we understand our world.” —Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250097187
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 10/25/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 84,263
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 11 - 15 Years

About the Author

Ibtisam Barakat is the author of Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, which received three starred reviews and was the winner of the Arab American National Museum Book Award. She is also a poet, speaker, and social justice advocate, especially in the lives of children and teens. She was born in Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem, grew up in Ramallah, Palestine, and currently lives in Columbia, Missouri.

Read an Excerpt

From Tasting the Sky
Father turned to Mother. “We must leave now,” he said. His voice was sharp like a knife.

My brothers were ready. They held each other’s hands tightly. Mother had secured my baby sister between her arms. My father strained to see the road from behind the mound of clothes and blankets he carried. But in spite of my desperate attempts to obey my parents’ commands, my three-and-a-half-year-old hands were unable to lace up the one shoe I had put on. My right foot was still shoeless.

“Yamma, Yaba! Help me!” I cried in a hushed voice, lest I attract attention and we all die. But no one answered.

At that moment, a new wave of fleeing villagers rushed by.
As they disappeared, everything faded into stillness. And my family was gone.

Had they just walked into the crowd and left me behind? Fear dug a hole in my heart. I could not grasp what had happened.
I wanted to cry aloud, hurl their names across the darkness, but dread stifled my voice. I knew that the only hope for me was to instantly run in the same direction, leaving my shoe behind.

As I moved, sounds of distant gunshots and screeching swelled and then subsided. I kept running. When I looked behind, I could no longer see the giant shadow of our home. The world within and around me seemed to fade into the unknown. The gravel grated sharply into my skin. Once again, I commanded myself not to feel.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
PART I - A Letter to No One,
PART II - The Postal Box of Memory 1967-1971,
PART III - A Letter to Everyone,
About the Author,
Copyright Page,

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. Consider the author's dedication. How does it set the tone for the book?

2. What is your understanding of the conflict in the Middle East? Referring to the Historical Note and resources listed in To Learn More, as well as other Web sites such as The History Channel's "Middle East" site (http://www.history.com/encyclopedia.do?articleId=216411), draft a time line of significant events.

3. Research the Six-Day War. What were the ramifications of the war?

4. Read the quotes the author uses to frame the book: at the start, the translation from the Arabic song "Ya Dara Douri Fina," and at the end, the quote attributed to Philo of Alexandria. What meaning do the quotes have for you before reading the book? After? Why might the author have selected them?

5. The book begins with "A Letter to No One" and ends with "A Letter to Everyone." Discuss why the author addressed them as such and what purpose the letters serve.

6. What does Alef represent to Ibtisam?

7. Why are poetry, letters, and writing so important to Ibtisam?

8. Do you think Abdel Nasser's statement, which Ibtisam's mother repeats, "Freedom of the word is the first prelude to democracy" (p.162), influenced Ibtisam? Do you agree or disagree with the statement?

9. Ibtisam's mother urges her to "Forget, just forget" the war and occupation. What do you think you would do in Ibtisam's place?

Customer Reviews

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Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book that I highly recommend, not only to my friends, but to teenagers. I personally think that this book is written so well that the reader is better able to appreciate what is happening to the innocent who are part of the war, through no fault of their own. This book should be put on the MUST READ list in schools.
ctmsjadi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this action packed and depressing biography, a Palestinian girl, Ibtisam Barakat, fights her way through a war she could not control.This starts off as the reader meets a girl named Ibtisam, who is coming home from her postal box, where she writes to her pen-pals, on a bus that is traveling to a Palestinian city called Ramallah. She soon finds herself in an Israeli roadblock, and is sent, with the other passengers, to a military compound. During this time, Palestine was under Israeli influence. When she is at the compound, some soldiers had the chance to search the passengers. Only one went to choose, and he chose a boy. When the soldier was searching him, the boy started laughing hysterically. The soldier then beat the boy very badly in front of everyone and allowed them to go home. When Ibtisam got home you got introduced to her family. Her Father was named Suleiman, her Mother¿s name was Miriam. She also had two brothers named Basel and Muhammad. Her Mother in particular throughout her memory accounts, wasn¿t the nicest person in the world. Her Mother beat her too just like her Father if she had done something wrong. Ibtisam soon apologized for going on that bus to begin with and suddenly remembers the hard times of going through war at age six.Her memory starts out at the beginning of the war. Her Mother was making dinner and they waited for her Father to come home from work. When her Father came home he was running towards the house. He said that the war had started and for Ibtisam to turn back. They soon gathered their supplies and ran into the garden and made a trench. Soon the sirens began to wail, her sister was crying from the loud noises, and they heard many explosions and planes above them. Ibtisam Mother realized that she did not have enough food for all of them, so she gunned it back to the house. Shots buzzed everywhere near her Mother and then she fell down. Her Father came to her and said that the shots had missed. They soon found other groups running away in the woods so they decided to go with them because they knew they weren¿t safe in the trench anymore. When they rushed to get out, Ibtisam was still putting on her shoes and didn¿t realize they had left. She soon ran into the woods after them, but she had left her shoe behind so her foot was getting cut and bruised from the objects on the ground. She soon found her parents and they tried to find refuge elsewhere. From that point on she had loads of adventures.In the book Ibtisam also had a lot of adventures. When she and her family were looking for refuge, her father hijacked a passerby¿s car and banded together with other refuges to force the driver to obey. Ibtisam Mother soon started having a great friendship with the driver¿s wife, Hamameh. They soon found themselves in a safe house for refuges, and stayed there for a week while her father left with the other men to help more refuges. By that point, Ibtisam foot had swelled as big as a melon, so when they left they took her to the hospital.When they were at the hospital, the Doctor helped Ibtisam. He treated her foot by injecting a syringe in her foot and put it into a cast. When the cast finally came off she danced and played in the streets out of joy. Soon after, her parents decided to move to a large school complex for a safer refuge.When the time was right, they all went back to their original home. They noticed that their home was damaged by the war, and bullet holes ravaged the inside. A part of the house that was affected was the roof, which had been blown to pieces, but her father fixed it. Later that afternoon soldiers set up a training camp in front of their home. This made Ibtisam Mother very angry and told Ibtisam Father that they should place them in an orphanage. Out of worry, her father agreed and drove them to the Dar El-Tifl¿s orphanage in Jericho.At the orphanage, Ibtisam¿s brothers were transferred to a boy¿s school called Jalazone Boys School. This made Ibtisam very ang
ctmsjani on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book Tasting the the sky was a not so interesting read. I found myself blankly read as I went on and when I wasn't blankly reading it still seemed dull. The author did not use words that she could have. If she did she could have really brought the book to life and it would have made it much more tolerable. I would strongly recommend not reading this book In the book Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat is about a Palestinian child growing up in a country infected with violence, death, and war. In the book the main character of the story is trying to learn and write as much as she can in order to have a bright future. She does this by writing letters to those all around the world and learning about the countries that they live in. In conclusion the book tasting the sky is a book that lacks the enjoyable read experience. It is also not easy to follow and may render the reader confused. the book tasting the sky is a not so good biology about a Palestinian girl.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I never considered what would be like for Palestinians to have their land taken away and given to Israel. This book is a memoir of a girl who experienced the war between the Palestinians and Israel. The author writes beautifully and honestly of what it was like to live through the conflict. It's not a diatribe against Israel; it is just the story of a child living through turmoil in her world. I decided to get the book for my school library, though it may be a little too much for all but the upper grades.
mcrotti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tasting the Sky, an Arab American Book Award winner for children and young adults, gives insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of a child. The author, Ibtisam Barakat, was just three years old when the Six Days War began, and the book follows her from childhood into adolescence. She recounts being separated from her family and seeing soldiers occupy her neighborhood, among other things, from the perspective of a very young child.This book would be useful for older children (probably middle school age) to learn basic facts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Libraries could use it in a book club for older children if information on Arab culture is desired. The book is a moving first-hand nonfiction account, and would provide an interesting perspective for young learners.
emgalford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Barakat, I. (2007). Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.In Ibtisam Barakat¿s Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, the author shares the story of her childhood experiences during the Six Day War. Detained by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in the West Bank, Barakat shares her memory of her war-torn childhood. Only three-years-old during the war, she talks about the fear she experienced as she is separated from her family at the beginning of the war. Barakat does an excellent job recalling the feelings and experiences of the war. She also gives a first-hand view of the Palestinian culture. Readers of different times and places can appreciate Barakat¿s story. She gives a first-hand view of a historical event. Her experiences will stand as a testament to the war for years to come. This book is a Arab American Book Award winner for children and young adults.In a school library, this book could be used with a fifth or sixth grade class when teaching about biographies and memoirs. This is a compelling memoir that students will find very interesting. You could also use other types of biographies for examples. This book can also be used as a tool for teaching about the Palestinian culture. The story conveys the author¿s love of her country. Reading this book could give students a new appreciation for the Arab culture.
moonbridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good book for middle schoolers, this is an apolitical story of the displacement of a close-knit Palestinian family during the time around the 6-Day War. Several events are a bit rough for sensitive readers. Adults will wish for a more indepth look at the Palestinian experience.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This beautifully written memoir gives us a glimpse into the childhood of Ibtisam Barakat, a Palestinian refugee. Although Ibtisam grew up in a country ravaged by war, not all of her memories are unhappy ones. She held on to a strong sense of home and family and her love for writing helped her deal with some of the scary things that happened to her. Although a lot of things about her childhood were very different from an American child's, many things were the same. I think this book is a great starting point for introducing the Israel-Palestine conflict and for showing kids that they can have something in common with kids halfway around the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book. Talks about the bad wars that most people can't experiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's a good book but I wouldn't of read it if a class I'm taking hadn't required it.
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This is so awesome i thought in the only one whos last name is barakat!oh ya i didnt read the book i want to tho it sounds pretty intresting