My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness
A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century
By Adina Hoffman
(Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300141504, 464pp.)
Publication Date: April 1, 2009
List Price: $27.50*
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Beautifully written, and composed with a novelist's eye for detail, ""this book""tells the story of an exceptional man and the culture from which he emerged.
Taha Muhammad Ali was born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriyya and was forced to flee during the war in 1948. He traveled on foot to Lebanon and returned a year later to find his village destroyed. An autodidact, he has since run a souvenir shop in Nazareth, at the same time evolving into what National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Eliot Weinberger has dubbed "perhaps the most accessible and delightful poet alive today."
As it places Muhammad Ali's life in the context of the lives of his predecessors and peers, "My Happiness" offers a sweeping depiction of a charged and fateful epoch. It is a work that Arabic scholar Michael Sells describes as "among the five 'must read' books on the Israel-Palestine tragedy." In an era when talk of the "Clash of Civilizations" dominates, this biography offers something else entirely: a view of the people and culture of the Middle East that is rich, nuanced, and, above all else, deeply human.
Adina Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Nation, the Washington Post, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. She lives in Jerusalem.