We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I: A Palestinian Memoir

Finalist, National Book Awards 2023 for Nonfiction

ISBN 9781635423648
Other Press
Author photo Raja Shehadeh. (Photo credit: Mariana Cook)
Raja Shehadeh

Raja Shehadeh is a writer and a lawyer who founded the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists. Shehadeh is the author of several books on international law, human rights, and the Middle East including Occupiers Law and From Occupation to Interim Accords. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

A subtle psychological portrait of the author’s relationship with his father during the 20th-century battle for Palestinian human rights.

Aziz Shehadeh was many lawyer, activist, and political detainee, he was also the father of bestselling author and activist Raja. In this new and searingly personal memoir, Raja Shehadeh unpicks the snags and complexities of their relationship.

A vocal and fearless opponent, Aziz resists under the British mandatory period, then under Jordan, and, finally, under Israel. As a young man, Raja fails to recognize his father’s courage and, in turn, his father does not appreciate Raja’s own efforts in campaigning for Palestinian human rights. When Aziz is murdered in 1985, it changes Raja irrevocably.

This is not only the story of the battle against the various oppressors of the Palestinians, but a moving portrait of a particular father and son relationship.


Judges Citation

In an emotionally rich and historically essential memoir, Raja Shehadeh explores his relationship with his father, a Palestinian attorney who was murdered in the 1980s. Their personal conflict is set against the backdrop of the illegal construction of Israeli highway systems, which made possible planned settlement expansions. Embedded within a meticulous recounting of cataclysmic political events, this remembrance of Palestinian family life is an effective, deep work illuminating the intimate and the political with elegance and feeling.


Teju Cole reading for Raja Shehadeh at the 2023 National Book Awards Finalist Reading