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Don't Look Left: A Diary of Genocide

Don't Look Left: A Diary of Genocide

Atef Abu Saif
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A harrowing and indispensable first-hand 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 Oct 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 two 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 three 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.

Profits from the sale of this book will go to two Palestinian charities: Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Middle East Children's Alliance.


Atef Abu Saif is a Palestinian novelist and diarist of the Palestinian experience of war and occupation. Born in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza 1973, he relocated to the West Bank in 2019 and is currently the Minister for Culture in the Palestinian Authority. Excerpts from his diaries of the 2023-24 Israel-Hamas war have appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Nation, Slate, The Guardian, and elsewhere. In 2015 Atef was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arab Fiction, also known as the "Arabic Man Booker". In 2018 he also won the Katari Prize for Best Arabic Novel (young writers category). In 2015 he published his diaries of the 2014 war on Gaza: The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary (Comma Press), which was described by Molly Crabapple as "a modern classic of war literature."


  • Publisher: Beacon Press
  • Publish Date: March 19, 2024
  • Pages: 288
  • Dimensions: 5.01 X 7.99 X 0.72 inches | 0.71 pounds
  • Language: English
  • Type: Paperback
  • EAN/UPC: 9780807018705
  • BISAC Categories: Personal Memoirs, Middle East - Israel & Palestine, World - Middle Eastern


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