On Our Shelves Now
Ida, a Palestinian-American girl, eats a magic olive that takes her to the life she might have had in her parents’ village near Jerusalem. An important coming of age story that explores identity, place, voice, and belonging.
Every time violence erupts in the Middle East, Ida knows what’s coming next. Some of her classmates treat her like it’s all her fault—just for being Palestinian! In eighth grade, Ida is forced to move to a different school. But people still treat her like she’ll never fit in. Ida wishes she could disappear.
One day, dreading a final class project, Ida hunts for food. She discovers a jar of olives that came from a beloved aunt in her family’s village near Jerusalem. Ida eats one and finds herself there—as if her parents had never left Palestine! Things are different in this other reality—harder in many ways, but also strangely familiar and comforting. Now she has to make some tough choices. Which Ida would she rather be? How can she find her place?
Ida’s dilemma becomes more frightening as the day approaches when Israeli bulldozers are coming to demolish another home in her family’s village…
About the Author
Nora Lester Murad, PhD, is a writer and co-author of Rest in My Shade: A Poem about Roots (Interlink Books, 2018). She raised her three daughters in Palestine. She co-founded Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation, and founded Aid Watch Palestine, a community-driven aid accountability initiative. She now lives in Boston.
“An engaging, beautifully nuanced book for upper elementary and young adult readers, its central theme—How do you survive middle school while being true to yourself?—is one that will resonate. Readers will connect to Ida’s struggles as a 13-year-old Palestinian American trying to grapple with anti-Arab racism at school, her relationship to a homeland she has never seen, and the complicated dynamics of her family … A must read!”
— Jody Sokolower, educator and author of Determined to Stay: Palestinian Youth Fight for Their Village
“Murad's YA novel is a masterful debut, portraying both the echoes of history and the beat of contemporary teen life with insight, honesty, and compassion."
— Susan Muaddi Darraj, author of A Curious Land: Stories from Home, winner of the American Book Award
“Ida in the Middle is a familiar adolescent story of our yearning to belong, while illuminating, with honesty and sensitivity, the painful experiences of Palestinians under the Occupation. Fourteen-year-old Ida, the timid and ‘invisible’ daughter of immigrants, finds herself magically transported to Busala, her native Palestinian village, where she discovers her voice and purpose in the world. Ida’s amazing journey reveals the strength of our roots wherever they are planted, and the courage to bear witness.”
— Sahar Mustafah, author of The Beauty of Your Face, a 2020 New York Times Notable Book
“Islamic School Librarian recommends Ida in the Middle. Ideal for middle school readers (upper mg/lower ya), this magical realism book takes readers from middle school in America to a Palestinian village outside of Jerusalem through the consumption of some magical olives … The story is important, and is told in a way that will encourage readers to learn more about the occupation … The book is relatable and moving, not just for those with a tie or interest in Palestine. It is a coming of age story that shows a girl grappling with forces so much bigger than her, while at the same time dealing with homework and friends and stereotypes. Ida has a lot to figure out and the book doesn’t sugar coat a happy ending, it simply provides a moving story based on reality, through a character whose quirks and personality you find yourself rooting for.”
“After unknowingly eating a magic olive, Palestinian American eighth grader Ida is whisked away to an alternate reality, in which her family never left Palestine, in this expansive novel from Murad. Ida has just transferred into a new school to escape the xenophobic bullying at her previous one, but she worries that she’ll never truly circumvent torment when she finds ‘T-E-R-R-O-R-I-S-T’ graffitied on her desk … Murad persuasively crafts an enlightening tale via introspective, authentic-feeling prose, and a protagonist whose bravery in the face of her fears instills hope and warmth. Ages 12–16.”
— Publishers Weekly
“[A]rtfully injects our cultural and political experiences into the broader American landscape … Olives, as every Palestinian knows, are not just a savory snack; they encapsulate our culture in each dense nugget. When they are cured by a favorite aunt, they can have magic powers. As she eats the olives, Ida is transported to her parents’ village, Busala, just outside Jerusalem, where she immediately feels at home … But life in Busala is also unpredictable, scary, and dangerous because of Israel’s occupation. Here, Murad skilfully weaves the narrative between Ida’s fantasy and the all-too-real events of life under occupation, as Ida has to brave Israeli military raids, curfews, and home demolitions.”
— Nada Elia, Middle East Eye