Raja Shehadeh is a well know Palestinian writer, lawyer, and activist. In his memoir, Shehadeh shares how in going through his deceased father’s papers, he realizes how little he understood his father’s life and the important work he did. His father Aziz was murdered in 1985. Aziz, a well-respected lawyer, spent decades fighting for the rights of Palestinians, opposing British rule, Jordanian rule, and the state of Israel. Aziz and his family were forced out of their home in Jaffa in 1948, always expecting to return once the war was over. They never were allowed to return. A fate they shared with over 750,000 displaced Palestinians. The impact of the many legal and political struggles and imprisonment took a heavy toll on Aziz. Raja deeply regrets that he did not understand more clearly his father’s anger and disappointment and how that affected their relationship. A powerful memoir that also examines the impact of historical events on family relationships.
Finalist for the National Book Award and a Best Book of 2023 by NPR
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.
About the Author
Raja Shehadeh is Palestine’s leading writer. 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, and Palestinian Walks, which won the prestigious Orwell 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 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