If I Must Die

sub-heading:
Poetry and Prose
Compiled with an introduction by
YOUSEF M. ALJAMAL
This rich, elegiac compilation of work from the late Palestinian poet and professor, Refaat Alareer, brings together his marvelous poetry and deeply human writing about literature, teaching, politics, and family.

“Refaat left us, but his word must not.”

—Mosab Abu Toha
$25.00
$21.25

Pre-order now and get 15% off. Books will ship in September.

Adding to cart… The item has been added
  • 240 pages
  • Hardback ISBN 9781682196212
  • E-book ISBN 9781682196229

about the bookabout

The renowned poet and literature professor Refaat Alareer was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City alongside his brother, sister, and nephews in December 2023. He was just forty-four years old, but had already established a worldwide reputation that was further enhanced when, in the wake of his death, the poem that gives this book its title became a global sensation. “If I Must Die” is included here, alongside Refaat’s other poetry.

Refaat wrote extensively about a range of topics: teaching Shakespeare and the way Shylock could be appreciated by young Palestinian students; the horrors of living under repeated brutal assaults in Gaza, one of which, in 2014, killed another of his brothers; and the generosity of Palestinians to each other, fighting, in the face of it all, to be the one paying at the supermarket checkout.

Such pieces, some never before published, have been curated here by one of Refaat’s closest friends and collaborators. This collection forms a fitting testament to a remarkable writer, educator, and activist, one whose voice will not be silenced by death but will continue to assert the power of learning and humanism in the face of barbarity.

About The Author / Editor

Refaat Alareer gained his PhD with a dissertation on the poetry of John Donne. He taught English Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, now destroyed. He is the editor of two collections of writing by his students, Gaza Writes Back and Gaza Unsilenced (both published by Just World Books). His journalism featured in The New York Times, and he appeared on the BBC, ABC News, and Democracy Now. He was a volunteer at the Gaza Zoo.

Read An Excerpt

If I Must Die, Let It Be a Tale

If I must die,

you must live

to tell my story

to sell my things

to buy a piece of cloth

and some strings,

(make it white with a long tail)

so that a child, somewhere in Gaza

while looking heaven in the eye

awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—

and bid no one farewell

not even to his flesh

not even to himself—

sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above

and thinks for a moment an angel is there

bringing back love

If I must die

let it bring hope

let it be a tale

*

My grandmother would tell me to put on a heavy sweater because it would rain. And it would rain! She, like all Palestinian elderly, had a unique sense, an understanding of the earth, wind, trees, and rain. The elderly knew when to pick olives for pickling or for oil. I was always envious of that.

Sorry, Grandma. We have instead become attuned to the vagaries of war. This heavy guest visits us uninvited, unwelcomed, and undesired, perches on our chests and breaths, and then claims the lives of many, in the hundreds and thousands…

Death and war. War and Death. These two are persona non grata, yet we can’t force them to leave. To let us be.

* 

Over the Wall

“There,” points Grandma.

She had a tent that was a home.

She had a goat and a camel.

She had a rake and a fork and a trowel.

She had a machete and a watering can.

She had a grove and two hundred plants.

She had a child and another one and another one.

***

“There,” she insists.

I could not see

Because of the wall.

I could not hear

Because of the noise.

I could not smell

Because of the powder.

***

But I can always tell,

I am sure of Grandma

Who always was

And is still

And will always be.

She smells like soil.

And smiles like soil.

And blinks like soil

When touched by rain.

***

She has a house that is a tent

She has a key

And a memory.

She has a hope

And two hundred offspring.

***

Grandma is here

But lives there.

“Over there!”

*

I’m an academic. Probably the toughest thing I have at home is an Expo marker. But if the Israelis invade, if the paratroopers charge at us, going from door to door, to massacre us, I am going to use that marker to throw it at the Israeli soldiers, even if that is the last thing that I do.

in the media

If I Must Die

sub-heading:
Poetry and Prose
Compiled with an introduction by
YOUSEF M. ALJAMAL
This rich, elegiac compilation of work from the late Palestinian poet and professor, Refaat Alareer, brings together his marvelous poetry and deeply human writing about literature, teaching, politics, and family.

“Refaat left us, but his word must not.”

—Mosab Abu Toha
$25.00
$21.25

Pre-order now and get 15% off. Books will ship in September.

Pre-Order Now

Adding to cart… The item has been added

about the bookabout

The renowned poet and literature professor Refaat Alareer was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City alongside his brother, sister, and nephews in December 2023. He was just forty-four years old, but had already established a worldwide reputation that was further enhanced when, in the wake of his death, the poem that gives this book its title became a global sensation. “If I Must Die” is included here, alongside Refaat’s other poetry.

Refaat wrote extensively about a range of topics: teaching Shakespeare and the way Shylock could be appreciated by young Palestinian students; the horrors of living under repeated brutal assaults in Gaza, one of which, in 2014, killed another of his brothers; and the generosity of Palestinians to each other, fighting, in the face of it all, to be the one paying at the supermarket checkout.

Such pieces, some never before published, have been curated here by one of Refaat’s closest friends and collaborators. This collection forms a fitting testament to a remarkable writer, educator, and activist, one whose voice will not be silenced by death but will continue to assert the power of learning and humanism in the face of barbarity.

About The Author / Editor

Refaat Alareer gained his PhD with a dissertation on the poetry of John Donne. He taught English Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, now destroyed. He is the editor of two collections of writing by his students, Gaza Writes Back and Gaza Unsilenced (both published by Just World Books). His journalism featured in The New York Times, and he appeared on the BBC, ABC News, and Democracy Now. He was a volunteer at the Gaza Zoo.

Read An Excerpt

If I Must Die, Let It Be a Tale

If I must die,

you must live

to tell my story

to sell my things

to buy a piece of cloth

and some strings,

(make it white with a long tail)

so that a child, somewhere in Gaza

while looking heaven in the eye

awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—

and bid no one farewell

not even to his flesh

not even to himself—

sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above

and thinks for a moment an angel is there

bringing back love

If I must die

let it bring hope

let it be a tale

*

My grandmother would tell me to put on a heavy sweater because it would rain. And it would rain! She, like all Palestinian elderly, had a unique sense, an understanding of the earth, wind, trees, and rain. The elderly knew when to pick olives for pickling or for oil. I was always envious of that.

Sorry, Grandma. We have instead become attuned to the vagaries of war. This heavy guest visits us uninvited, unwelcomed, and undesired, perches on our chests and breaths, and then claims the lives of many, in the hundreds and thousands…

Death and war. War and Death. These two are persona non grata, yet we can’t force them to leave. To let us be.

* 

Over the Wall

“There,” points Grandma.

She had a tent that was a home.

She had a goat and a camel.

She had a rake and a fork and a trowel.

She had a machete and a watering can.

She had a grove and two hundred plants.

She had a child and another one and another one.

***

“There,” she insists.

I could not see

Because of the wall.

I could not hear

Because of the noise.

I could not smell

Because of the powder.

***

But I can always tell,

I am sure of Grandma

Who always was

And is still

And will always be.

She smells like soil.

And smiles like soil.

And blinks like soil

When touched by rain.

***

She has a house that is a tent

She has a key

And a memory.

She has a hope

And two hundred offspring.

***

Grandma is here

But lives there.

“Over there!”

*

I’m an academic. Probably the toughest thing I have at home is an Expo marker. But if the Israelis invade, if the paratroopers charge at us, going from door to door, to massacre us, I am going to use that marker to throw it at the Israeli soldiers, even if that is the last thing that I do.

in the media