We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir (Hardcover)

We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir By Raja Shehadeh Cover Image

We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir (Hardcover)

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Finalist for the National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize
An NPR Best Book of the Year

A subtle psychological portrait of the author’s relationship with his father during the twentieth-century battle for Palestinian human rights.


Aziz Shehadeh was many things: lawyer, activist, and political detainee, he was also the father of bestselling author and activist Raja. In this new and searingly personal memoir, Raja Shehadeh unpicks the snags and complexities of their relationship.

A vocal and fearless opponent, Aziz resists under the British mandatory period, then under Jordan, and, finally, under Israel. As a young man, Raja fails to recognize his father’s courage and, in turn, his father does not appreciate Raja’s own efforts in campaigning for Palestinian human rights. When Aziz is murdered in 1985, it changes Raja irrevocably.

This is not only the story of the battle against the various oppressors of the Palestinians, but a moving portrait of a particular father and son relationship.
Raja Shehadeh is one of Palestine’s leading writers. He is also a lawyer and the founder of the pioneering Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq. Shehadeh is the author of several acclaimed books including Strangers in the House, Occupation Diaries, Palestinian Walks, which won the prestigious Orwell Prize, and We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I (Other Press, 2023), which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
“Profoundly personal as well as historically significant…In his moral clarity and baring of the heart, his self-questioning and insistence on focusing on the experience of the individual within the storms of nationalist myth and hubris, Shehadeh recalls writers such as Ghassan Kanafani and Primo Levi…a quiet and deeply felt book that illustrates how being dispossessed and being occupied are not merely legal or political conditions.” —New York Times Book Review

“Absolutely gripping…Shehadeh’s writing is clear and pared-back; it wears its power lightly. But his masterly, remorseless selection and accumulation of detail builds an unanswerable case against Palestine’s historic and current oppressors.” —The Guardian
 
“Raja’s memoir is a vital history of Aziz’s overlooked achievements; but it is also a son’s love letter to his father.” —Harper’s
 
“Shehadeh movingly blends the personal and political in this heartfelt take on his complex relationship with his lawyer father…This poignant memoir will resonate with many, whatever their positions on the political conflict at its center.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Poignant and engaging…A well-established Palestinian voice fashions a loving portrayal of the unsung achievements of his activist father.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[A] highly readable memoir…impressively comprehensive…thought-provoking.” —The Observer

“A striking story of loss, heartbreak, and political perfidy.” ―Irish Times

“Slim but powerful—rich in recent historical detail with a poignant personal trauma threading in and out of it. This is a Palestinian memoir that will endure.” —Church Times

“This personal and gripping memoir, which is partly the conversation that Raja Shehadeh wishes he could have had with his murdered father, is also the touching untold story of Aziz Shehadeh’s unrelenting resistance to the British perfidy, Hashemite tyranny, and Israeli colonization that have tormented the Palestinians since 1917.” —Rashid Khalidi, author of The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017

“Raja Shehadeh’s We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind memoir. It is a clear-eyed, critical, and wise examination of a defining tragedy of the twentieth century—the colonization of Palestine—as refracted through the lens of the fraught relationship between two of Palestine’s leading lawyers, who happen to be father and son. United in recognizing the necessity of intellectual resistance but diverging in most other ways, Mr. Shehadeh interrogates and evolves his understanding of his father as a husband, a patriarch, and a visionary leader whether under occupation, in prison, or in exile. With a blend of urgency and dignified emotion, Mr. Shehadeh unpacks the underappreciated victories and searing losses, both personal and political.” —Saeed Teebi, author of Her First Palestinian

Praise for Raja Shehadeh:

“Palestine’s greatest prose writer.” —The Observer

Going Home cements the author’s reputation as the best-known Palestinian writing in English.” —The Guardian

“Shehadeh is a great inquiring spirit with a tone that is vivid, ironic, melancholy, and wise.” —Colm Tóibín

“Raja Shehadeh is a buoy in a sea of bleakness.” —Rachel Kushner