Beacon Press: Don't Look Left
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Don't Look Left

A Diary of Genocide

Author: Atef Abu Saif   Foreword by: Christopher Hedges

A harrowing and indispensable firsthand account of the experience of the first 85 days of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, from a prominent Palestinian writer

In the morning I read the news. The news is about us. But it’s designed for people reading it far, far away, who couldn’t possibly imagine they could ever know anyone involved. It’s for people who read the news to comfort themselves, to tell themselves: it’s still far, far away. I read the news for different reasons: I read it to know I’m not dead.

Early in the morning of October 7, 2023, Atef Abu Saif went swimming. It was a beautiful morning: sunny with a cool breeze. The Palestinian Authority’s Minister for Culture, he was on a combined work-and-pleasure trip to Gaza, visiting his extended family with his 15-year-old son, Yasser, and participating in National Heritage Day.

Then the bombing started.

Don’t Look Left takes us into the day-to-day experiences of Gazan civilians trying to survive Israel’s war against Hamas, its detail and extended narrative showing us what brief reports and video clips cannot. In a war that has taken an extraordinarily high toll on civilians, it is a crucial document—a day-to-day testimony and a deeply moving depiction of a people’s fight to survive and maintain their humanity amid the chaos and trauma of mass destruction.

It is also, remarkably, a powerful literary experience. Atef Abu Saif was born in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza in 1973, and, as he writes, his first war broke out when he was 2 months old. He writes as only someone who knows Gaza deeply can, and only as someone who knows war can, picking out the details of ordinary life and survival amidst the possibility of death coming at any moment: washing the only shirt he has and waiting naked for 3 hours for it dry; noticing a cat, as terrified as the people on the street around it, hiding under a bistro table; visiting his sister-in-law’s daughter in the hospital, who tells him in her dream she has no legs, and asks him if it is true. It is: she has lost her legs and a hand when her home was hit by a bomb. Trying to figure out the best place to sleep each night, and when and where to flee as the destruction intensifies.

This is not like past wars with Israel, Abu Saif soon realizes—thinking of the Nakba, and of images of bombed cities from World War II.
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“A chilling day-by-day account of living in and fleeing from Gaza in the last three months of 2023 . . . Desperate, devastating, and difficult to read, making it all the more necessary.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Trapped inside Israel’s genocidal campaign against Gaza, Atef Abu Saif has chronicled the destruction of his city and the heroism of his people with a clarity and eloquence profound enough to silence bombs.”
—Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood

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Don't Look Left

ISBN: 978-080701870-5
Publication Date: 3/19/2024
Size:5 x 8 Inches (US)
Price:  $17.95
Format: Paperback
Availability: In stock.
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