Reviewed by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
The nameless narrator who gives herself the code name (or nom de guerre) of Butterfly is on the cusp of adolescence, the third of six children in a Muslim Palestinian family. She watches her father come home every night, tired to the bone from his job as a foreman on the farm of Israeli settlers Gabby and Yuval. Sometimes Gabby and Yuval send candy to the children, but they also have total power over this family. In the room she shares with her two sisters, Butterfly keeps her questions hidden in an imaginary treasure chest, questions like why her older sister Zainab cries herself to sleep, or how she can be best friends with both Mays and Haya when Mays dreams of joining the Palestinian struggle and Haya’s father and grandfather are rumored to be collaborators with the Israelis.
Translated from the Arabic by Nancy N. Roberts and published by Neem Tree Press (which has published the book in two parallel editions: in Arabic and English), Code Name: Butterfly contains five vignettes that span a crucial year in its protagonist’s life, as she turns from a girl to a woman, falls in love for the first time, and has her heart broken—more than once. Her personal story is inseparable from the story of her village, where martyrdom is a fact of life and can happen from a car accident as easily as from an Israeli bullet. Continue reading.
Code Name: Butterfly by Ahlam Bsharat
Published by Neem Tree Press Limited on September 21, 2016
Genres: Middle East, Muslim
Reading Level: High School
Review Source: Pirate Tree
Publisher's Synopsis: With irony and poignant teenage idealism, Butterfly draws us into her world of adult hypocrisy, sibling rivalries, girlfriends' power plays, unrequited love...not to mention the political tension of life under occupation. As she observes her fragile environment with all its conflicts, Butterfly is compelled to question everything around her. Is her father a collaborator for the occupiers? Will Nizar ever give her the sign she's waiting for? How will her friendship with the activist Mays and the airhead Haya survive the unpredictable storms ahead? And why is 'honour' such a dangerous word, anyway? A well-written and thoughtful attempt to tease out the complex inner life of a Palestinian girl as she interacts with her family and friends within the context of military occupation and economic exploitation. The narrative moves smoothly and the translation is able to catch the psychological nuance of the original beautifully. Highly recommended not just for teenagers and young adults but for readers of all ages for a glimpse of everyday existence in Occupied Palestine.