By Ramsey Hanhan
Fomite Press, 2022, 412 pages, $18.95
Fugitive Dreams is a slightly fictionalized literary memoir that illustrates through personal stories 50 years of life under occupation. Born in Palestine “on the ‘wrong’ side of the border,” Sameer finds his way to America to rebuild his life. His immigrant experience in post-9/11 America is laced to the ongoing conflict at home with the common threads of school shootings, police violence, human rights abuses, activism, and walls. For the sake of his daughter, he decides he must do something.
At its heart, Fugitive Dreams is a love story: the love of Sameer for his country of birth, Palestine; and, later, his love for his American-born daughter and his determination to transmit to her this love for Palestine and the dream of a free Palestine.
Fugitive Dreams whisks us along the streets and hills of Palestine, giving a glimpse of an occupied childhood witnessing an Intifada against a military power. The knock on the door, in the middle of the night, is all too familiar. The Nakba’s inherited trauma, the dislocation of statelessness and exile, the suspended evanescence of interim periods, and never-ending processes of “peace” are all there.
Conflicted about America’s consistent support for Israel, Sameer seeks its roots in America’s economic and military interests, in its settler-colonial past, and in a citizenry kept ignorant by misinformation. He finds his Palestinian Christian heritage equally at odds with a vocal segment of American Christians who reduce his beloved Bible to a doctrine of supremacy and promised land.
Meanwhile, on his frequent visits to Palestine, Sameer feels “locked in [the Wall’s] twisted, tangled, writhing clutches,” and finds a shrunken natural world and an environment under assault. Dreaming of a better future for his daughter, he reflects on how concerned citizens can make peace happen.
“A profound fictional portrayal of Palestinian life and struggle,” wrote Palestinian-American activist Sam Bahour on ePalestine. “Fugitive Dreams is one of the few books that would make a compelling read even for those of us very familiar with the question of Palestine,” recommended Jareer Kassis in Mondoweiss. Writer-activist Noora Kassem affirmed, “This is a tender, honest and brave work of art. I hope it soothes you with its validating truths and uplifts you with its foundations of sumood as it did me.”
Ramsey Hanhan, having come to America from Palestine in his teens, had firsthand experience of both the Israeli occupation of his country and the immigrant journey of rebuilding life anew. As a physics professor, he was noted for computer models that describe and predict complexity in nature. Hanhan holds a PhD in engineering from the University of Michigan.