Reviewed by Nada Sneige Fuleihan
Paperback: 275 pages, Deux Voiliers publishing. Aylmer, Quebec. 1st edition. May 2015.
Wall of Dust is a fictional story of a young Palestinian teacher struggling to deal with the loss of 12 first grade students after an Israeli rocket lands on their school.
Aisha expresses her grief in a most unusual way: once a day, at the same time, she walks to Israel’s “Separation” wall, picks up 12 stones and throws them at the wall, calling out the name of each of her dead students. Then she walks home.
Aisha is female and Palestinian. She slips in an out of her hijab instinctively as a free woman living her pain. With hints to Sophocles’ Antigone, Aisha, whose name means “alive,” is her own character. Her daily ritual is not driven by defiance as much as by simple humanity.
Many characters on both sides of the wall cross Aisha’s path, each struggling with their own conflicts and losses. The focus throughout, however, remains with the schoolteacher, as she keeps on remembering her students in an act of universal human suffering and hope.
Tim Niedermann’s writing is poetic and graceful. His characters’ depth and complexity contribute to the reality of their humanity as they struggle to make sense of their world, while trying to live their own lives. Philosophical metaphors arise from simple images such as chopping onions, the gnarls of the olive tree limbs and the dancing whirls of dust. The story moves in a measured pace, allowing the reader time to pause and reflect; then it crescendos into a suspenseful tension until the very end.
Wall of Dust is a poignant story of life under occupation. It is an eye-opening telling of the complexities of that long conflict and a tribute to the struggles of the Palestinians and all human struggles for fairness and justice around the world.
Nada Sneige Fuleihan, a graduate of the American University of Beirut, is an educator and independent writer living in Chicago.
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