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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 is a writer, educator, and activist. She co-authored Rest in My Shade: A Poem About Roots, and edited I Found Myself in Palestine: Stories of Love and Renewal From Around the Globe. From a Jewish American family, Nora moved from California to study in the Middle East. She married a Muslim Palestinian, and raised three daughters in the West Bank and in the US. She posts her writing at www.noralestermurad.com.
“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
“Palestinian American eighth-grader Ida lives with her family in Oldbridge, MA, where she is preoccupied with avoiding the Islamophobic bullying that forced her to change schools recently. Home alone one afternoon, she eats an olive from a jar, a gift from her aunt in Palestine, and finds herself transported to Busala, a small city near Jerusalem. In this alternate reality, Ida experiences the ways that her life and her family would have been different if her parents had stayed in Palestine … [T]he details of her daily life will keep readers immersed. Jewish American author Murad writes with sensitivity from personal experience—she and her Palestinian husband raised their children in the West Bank.”
“[A] welcome saga of a young Palestinian American middle school girl grappling with her identity … In this young adult novel, one can teach the story of Palestine and the challenges Palestinians face every day living under Israeli occupation. At the same time, the book helps children understand and empathize with the plight of immigrants who have come to the United States due to the danger of political and economic turmoil in their native lands … Ida in the Middle is sure to capture the minds of its teenage readers. Told with a magical realism, one cannot help but become engrossed as Ida vividly travels from homework sessions and soccer games in Massachusetts back to occupied Palestine.”
— Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
“Nora Lester Murad's young adult novel, Ida in the Middle, explores Palestinian identity and makes it relatable to a non-Palestinian audience … Murad's writing is engaging and emotional, making the Palestinian experience tangible to a young audience. A Jewish writer married to a Palestinian, Murad is meticulous in her narrations and her engagement with Palestinians is based on observation, not appropriation, which allows space for the Palestinian narrative to thrive.”
— Middle East Monitor
“Ida in the Middle offers YA readers an immersive introduction to the occupation of Palestine. It is also a story of personal transformation … [It] captures adolescent angst with palpable precision … [Ida’s] newfound pride in her people and their history is inspiring. It also makes for a gripping and poignant story … Call it the miracle of the olives.”
— The Indypendent
“[Ida in the Middle] is rich in opportunities for thought and discussion about the treatment of Palestinian Americans in the US and daily life of Palestinians under Israeli occupation ... [T]he rare fact-based novel is a vital source of missing information and perspective. Ida in the Middle acts as a counter narrative to mainstream US news media and popular culture that do not mention the impact of home demolition or military invasion or the imprisonment of children in Israeli military jails, and describe Israel as a Western democracy threatened by terrorism but not as a settler colonial apartheid state, the experience of Palestinians.”
— Worlds of Words