5 Non-fiction Books on Belonging and Identity

by Samia

While I love reading fiction and the escapism it can bring, I also really enjoy the depth, expertise and range of nonfiction literature.

Here are a few titles I have absolutely loved!

1. In My Mother’s Footsteps by Mona Hajjar Halaby

In My Mother's Footsteps

Mona Hajjar Halaby’s memoir is written with a quiet strength and gentleness as she captures the experiences, emotions, thoughts and loss of refugees everywhere. For Mona, Palestine has always been home, despite not having been born there or spent time there while growing up. In many ways, Palestinian is depicted as a magical place just a little too far out of reach, and yet a huge part of the core of her identity and very essence. I imagine this is the experience of many Palestinian refugees.

Mona’s family have lived in Alexandria, Geneva and she has eventually settled in California. Like refugees everywhere, they have strived to make home everywhere, but the deep longing and heartache for Palestine never fades.

In Palestine, Mona teaches conflict-resolution at the Ramallah Friends School for one year and she uses this time to explore the country and her mother’s neighbourhood. The memoir alternates between Mona’s experiences in Palestine and emotive letters from her mother detailing her life growing up in Palestine.

Mona presents both a detailed analysis of the historical context behind current day Palestine and details of her own family’s experiences. I loved this, making the memoir both personal and deep, and informative and insightful. Mona shares her experiences of teaching conflict resolution to Palestinian which I found incredibly fascinating.

This is a really incredible read – essential reading, moving, insightful and tender.

2. I Refuse to Condemn

I Refuse to Condemn

I Refuse to Condemn is a selection of essays teaching us the importance of and the ways in which we can resist the expectations and demands placed upon us as Muslims by others to condemn acts of violence and terrorism committed by Muslims. The demand to condemn in this way is racist and Islamaphobic. The same condemnation is not required from other groups in the face of violence, and the ramifications for the muslims when choosing not to condemn are unparalleled.

This selection of essays has helped me feel seen and understood like ever before.

3. The Short Life of Qandeel Baloch by Sanam Maher

Short Life of Qandeel baloch

This book details the life of Qandeel Baloch, a young woman from Pakistan who shared promiscuous videos on social media and went viral. She was the centre of controversy and was murdered by her brother at her parents home in Multan.

This book describes Qandeel’s life, her experiences in chasing fame and fortune in a society deemed oppressive and controlling. While the book seems a case study, it also analyses Pakistani society a whole, social media fame and the status and challenges that women face.

4. I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti

I Saw Ramallah

Mourid Barghouti captures his emotive and powerful journey back to Palestine, returning after 30 years of being unable to do so. This book is his journey, his yearning, his loss and his pain.

5. The Roles We Play by Sabba Khan

The Roles We Play

In her beautiful graphic novel, Sabba takes us on a journey of self discovery and acceptance of self, as she reconnects to her roots to learn about her family history and heritage, and follows a journey from the scenic lands of Mirzapur, Azad Kashmir all the way through to the bustling streets of East London.

She captures the huge questions we ask as children of immigrants and the people who are constantly told we dont belong.

About the Author

Samia is a freelance writer and communications consultant working in the international development sector. She is an avid reader, with a particular interest on books written by authors from around the world. Samia runs a blog on Instagram where she shares book reviews, recommendations and opinion.