Short stories from Gaza describe life in the ‘world’s largest prison’

Author Nayrouz Qarmout’s stories are embedded in real events. (Shutterstock)
Updated 08 October 2019

Short stories from Gaza describe life in the ‘world’s largest prison’

CHICAGO: From the Gaza Strip comes a collection of short stories about growing up and coming of age in the “world’s largest prison.”

“The Sea Cloak and Other Stories” by Nayrouz Qarmout tells about a land where life is lived in bits and pieces, its joys cherished and sorrows familiar.

Each story is filled with vivid memories of places, events, scents, houses and people that if not recorded could so easily have been lost in time.

Qarmout begins her collection with a young woman watching the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza’s coastline brimming with families, tents and the smell of roasting sweetcorn.

The narrator’s family spends a rare day at the beach. She describes her sisters gossiping, her brothers grilling fish and talking politics and war, her mother tidying their tent, while her father gazes out to sea. The young girl wants to be free like the waves, and so in her black dress and veil sets out.




“The Sea Cloak and Other Stories” by Nayrouz Qarmout tells about a land where life is lived in bits and pieces. (Supplied)

Between a young woman attempting to discover herself in a place where her life is bound by politics and societal pressures, an older woman walks her donkey cart along a mountain path between the village of Al-Khader and the Efrat settlement to her grape vines, all she has left after the death of husband.

Life is tough near the settlements, relationships strained, and friendships cautious. Security forces shoot first and ask questions later.

In more than one story, Qarmout’s path to freedom is the one that leads to school and education. For everyone, life is lived amid rubble and painful memories but also with an innate resilience, to take care of their families, communities and themselves.

Qarmout’s stories are embedded in real events, her characters live through bombardment, gun battles, mortar attacks, disappointment, fear and lost love with heartbreaking determination.

One frustrated character, Ziad, said: “I stood up for my principles and for my liberty. So, tell me: Where is the land my father promised would be mine again? It’s getting further and further away. Peace has escaped. Hope has fled.”

Between the family who has spent a week in hiding and a young girl practicing patriotic songs, life is lived, even if it is difficult.

Qarmout is an author and women’s rights activist. She was born in Damascus but returned to Gaza in 1994.


‘A Fall from Grace’ is a dark thriller with a fresh take

A still from ‘A Fall from Grace.’ Supplied
Updated 26 January 2020

‘A Fall from Grace’ is a dark thriller with a fresh take

  • Penned, produced and helmed by Tyler Perry, “A Fall From Grace" is now streaming on Netflix
  • The film tackles a rarely discussed subject — that of elderly abuse.

CHENNAI: Tyler Perry’s dark thriller “A Fall From Grace” — in which he also acts — reminded me not of Hitchcock or Agatha Christie or even Arthur Conan Doyle, but of Erle Stanley Gardner and his brilliant courtroom drama, with Perry Mason playing both lawyer and sleuth. 

Penned, produced and helmed by Perry, “A Fall From Grace,” now streaming on Netflix, is set in suburban Virginia and was shot in just five days. Middle-aged divorcee Grace (Crystal Fox) has murdered her young husband. She has even confessed to it, and it looks like an open-and-shut case. Public prosecutor Jasmine (Bresha Webb), a novice in the field, is asked by her boss (Perry) to get a plea deal from Grace. 

But when the two women meet — a much older Grace and much younger Jasmine — something does not seem right to the prosecutor, and much against the wishes of her boss and the accused, she goes about making her own investigations. 

There is a strong element of Christian faith running through the movie, and we see Jasmine tracking down Grace’s best friend Sarah (Phylicia Rashad), who also feels that there is something amiss. A series of flashbacks narrates Grace’s unfortunate story.

Disillusioned over her former husband’s affair, Grace flips for a handsome young photographer Shanon, who woos her with flowers and dinner dates. Sarah encourages her friend, and much like a Gardner plot, “A Fall from Grace” is peppered with hints and clues. Catch them if you can. But what finally turns out is a horror story of torture and turmoil.

Interestingly, the film tackles a rarely discussed subject — that of elderly abuse. It is said that 5 million older men and women are ill-treated every year in America, and “A Fall from Grace” has some disturbing revelations to show us. They are sheer horror, and the last word in human cruelty. 

The movie has its weak moments — some characters’ motivations are never fully explained, for example. But on the whole, it is a disturbing tale that will keep you hooked.