Biography

Ibtisam Azem is a Palestinian novelist, short story writer, and journalist based in New York. She was born and raised in Taybeh, near Jaffa, the city from which her mother and maternal grandparents were internally displaced in 1948. She lived in Jerusalem and studied at the Hebrew University before moving to Germany and later to the US.

She has published two novels in Arabic: The Sleep Thief (2011) and The Book of Disappearance (2014). Her first short story collection, I Wish I Were a Hoopoe, is forthcoming in Arabic in the summer of 2024. The Book of Disappearance has been translated into English, Italian, and German.

Azem holds an MA in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies with minors in German and English Literature from Freiburg University, as well as an MA in Social Work from NYU.

Reviews

Leila Aboulela

‘With deftness and layered knowledge, Ibtisam Azem pulls off a daring and inventive conceit, a spooky, witty novel that captures the paranoia of the usurper and the loneliness of those who survive to tell their tales. This is a definite winner which speaks directly to our anguish over Palestine.’

Richard Ford

‘Immensely readable . . . Azem does not resolve for us the calamity of Palestine's occupation by Israel. But stylishly and with jeweled virtuosity she makes us understand that acts of great and humane imagination will be required, and with this potent book points where and how we must all go.’

Molly Crabapple

‘Using a magical realism as cool and lacerating as that of Borges, Azem builds the story of a young Israeli journalist and his vanished Palestinian friend into a devastating exploration of the nakbah, betrayal, erasure, and love of home. For lovers of Palestinian literature, The Book of Disappearance has earned its place beside Saher Khalifa's Wild Thorns, and thanks to Sinan Antoon's masterful translation, Anglophone readers can now experience this thrilling, essential work.’

Ahdaf Soueif

‘In Jaffa, the most lively presence is that of the dead. Ibtisam Azem has gifted us with a poignant, mysterious, lyrical, new novel.’


Words Without Borders

‘Unquestionably powerful.’


The Modern Novel

‘A wonderful book, showing what the Palestinians have suffered and continue to suffer.’


Middle East Monitor

‘A masterpiece which immediately leads the reader to ponder the historical foundations of the 1948 Nakba, as well as the Zionist intentions and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the land where they belong.’

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