A. M. Qattan Foundation holds the 3rd encounter of the Reading Club in partnership with Khota Books
On Saturday, 21 July 2018, in partnership with Khota Books Publishing House, the Educational Research and Development Programme (ERDP) / A. M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF) held the third encounter of the Reading Club. Moderated by Ula Badawi, Manager of the ERDP Gaza Office, the encounter was attended by Mahmoud Madi, Executive Director of Khota Books, together with 41 persons.
In “A Guest and Experience” activity, the encounter hosted Palestinian writer and poet Khaled Juma. Based on their personal experiences and readings, participants discussed several topics in literature, politics, history and heritage with Juma. They drew a link between these topics and other readings, visions and ideas of various writers.
Via Skype from Ramallah, Juma spoke about the two most influential reading experiences, which affected him: “When I was five years old, our home was demolished and we moved to another neighbourhood. Children did not understand that there was a boy from another neighbourhood so that they could sympathise with him. On the contrary, they treated me as someone who was not from their neighbourhood. They though they should not play with me. This led to solitude, which forced me to read. Over time, many worlds, which were different from those of my ordinary peers, opened up for me. In my second experience, when I was a student at the UNRWA school, we used to have six hours a week to learn blacksmithing and carpentry. On one occasion, I cut my finger, causing panic among teachers. Then, I agreed with teachers that would I spend those six hours at the school library. That was one of the largest school libraries at the time. It had the most impact on my life.”
Participants addressed many questions to Juma about his experience as a writer. They also asked about the impact books had on the reader and the relationship between reading and writing.
Juma stressed the importance of the diversity of readings. Equally importance in one’s life are basic readings, which should be grounded in one’s inquiry about his identity: “Who am I? Where do I live?” Juma also highlighted the significance of the aesthetics of reading history, heritage, mythology and religions. He also emphasised that the reader should be a partner in making the meaning of the text. The reader should not receive the writer’s ideas without discussion or thinking, but should come up with his own opinion and visions that give voice to his aspirations and feelings. “In my opinion, the best way to read is to read a book as if you are debating with its writer,” Juma went on.
During the encounter, participants raised a number of questions about the importance of reading our own suffering as Palestinians from the perspective of other writers around the world. They also inquired how a writer, who did not go through a particular experience, can write about it and how one can translate his suffering through the act of writing.
Nada Daghmash, a participant, talked about her experience with Gram, a book on smoking and other types of addiction. Nada recalled the protagonist’s attempts to give up and the challenges he faced. Participants spoke with Nada about their perspective of the types of addiction in people’s lives, such as addiction to particular habits associated with money, clothes and lifestyle practices.
Majd al-Kurd shared his experience of reading The Dreamer of Palestine. Al-Kurd said his brother had dedicated the book to him nine years earlier. However, it occurred to him to read it only recently. He was amazed by the influence the book had on him. According to Al-Kurd, the writer, Randa Ghazi, managed to transmit our Palestinian question to other societies. As an Egyptian-Italian writer, the writer relates how she is influenced by the incident of Mohammed al-Durrah and by the state of displacement and loss in society.
Reem al-Eilah talked about her experience with the Strategy of Perception for Mobility by Jassim Al-sultan. The book addresses the theories of renaissance through practical application and ideas for steps, which start from scratch to achieve individual or collective renaissance. The mechanism for achievement is twofold: top-down and bottom-up approach to power. The audience discussed with Reem how realistic these ideas were, the potential to realise these ideas, and which approach is more likely to achieve renaissance. The audience also shared many other experiences, including A Manifestation of Self-Reconstruction and Reformation and I am Not an Ordinary Woman.
According to participants, the Reading Club encounters are rich. Mohammed Rayyan stated: “I feel that the idea of reading has been deliberated in a new spirit, which derives from participants’ experiences. It opens up new horizons for me. Salsabil Ayyoub said: “We shared intellectual culture. I learned about books I have not read earlier. I was also familiar with views and opinions that were completely different from what I’m used to.”
The Reading Club is premised on the idea of sharing personal experiences with reading books through a common dialogue. Every participant in the encounter chooses a book they read and was influenced by. They speak about their experience with the book, including the conscientious and mental relationship created by reading the book and the questions it raises to them. The encounter also involved “Sharing Books” activity, where participants bring in, share and talk to others about books. “A Guest and Experience” activity hosts a writer, artist or community activist with a rich experience in reading.