Fairytales from the Holy Land, 2017

I found this gem while looking for printings of Hanauer’s Folk-lore of the Holy Land. There are only six tales but they are told with much passion and vivacity. They really are a delight, besides my joy at finding Palestinian fairy tales I haven’t read before. Some were similar to ones found in other collections. Jana the Atraj Virgin, for example, is a variation of Nani, Daughter of Nani. For my part, I find Jana to be more engaging.

This book is available on Kindle here.


  • Jana the Atraj Virgin
  • Qalanswa
  • Tamara
  • Prince Baldpate
  • Shattir Hasan
  • The Forsaken Queen

Contes populaires de Palestine, 2003

This little book contains stories found elsewhere, in collections such as Speak, Bird, Speak Again! and Arab Folktales, but there are a few that are new.


  • Le roi des oiseaux [The King of the Birds]
  • Jloûkoum [Jloukoum]
  • La ruse d’Abou l-Housayn [The Cleverness of Abou Housayn]
  • L’oiselle demoiselle [Little Miss Bird]
  • Châhîn [Shahin]
  • Celle qui avait le mieux compris [She Who Understood Best]
  • Hassan le rusé [Hassan the Clever]
  • Dâwoûd, le prince banni [Dawoud the Banished Prince]
  • Abou l-‘Adas, le mangeur de lentilles [Abou ‘Adas, Eater of Lentils]
  • Mon fils, mon mari [My Son, My Husband]
  • Crotte de Bique [Dunglet]
  • La Justice de Qaâqoûch [The Justice of Qaraqouch]
  • Le pet des riches et le pet des pauvres [The Rich Man and the Poor Man]
  • Petite marmite [Little Cooking Pot]
  • Le chameau fiancé [The Camel Husband]
  • Graine de Granade [Pomegranate Seed]

Arab Folktales from Palestine and Israel, 1998

Arab Folktales from Palestine and Israel by Raphael Patai. There is a lot to unpack with this one. I could simply say that it is of its time but that wouldn’t really suffice. There is a lot of orientalism here, even at first glance. In general, the approach seems to be that if you read these tales in the literal translations provided you will gain insight into “Arab Culture.” As I said to someone just now: “what is Arab culture? I do not know what ‘Arab culture’ means.”

As for Palestinians, the phrases “Palestinian Arabs,” “Israeli-Arabs,” and “Arab tribes in Israel” appear.


Part One: 1910-11

  • The One-Eyed Ghoul
  • Allah’s Dispensation
  • The Jinn’s Gratitude
  • The Price of the Bride
  • The Virtuous Maiden
  • The Banished Prince
  • The Emir’s Daughter
  • The Unfaithful Wife
  • The Two Blind Women
  • Each Man Suffers Disasters

Part Two: 1946-47

  • The Lightest of the Light, the Heaviest of the Heavy, the Fattest of the Fat
  • Talaja of the Twenty an the Chicken
  • Cunning…and Cunning
  • The Locust and the Sparrow
  • Tambar Titi
  • The Return of the Light
  • The Bird of Power
  • The Dull-Witted Fisherman

Part Three: 1982-84

  • The King and His Wife
  • Ghouls in Switzerland
  • The One-Eyed Giant Shepherd
  • Hasan the Sharp-Witted
  • The Prince Who Turned Into a Deer
  • Pomegranate Seed
  • The Uncles and Their Nephew
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Wadi’ah
  • The Two Hunters

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop and… Fairy Tales

Last night I thought that I glanced at a writer’s craft book all about how to transform fairy tales into original fiction. I was wrong, but it did give me an idea for this week’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop. 🙂 How *do* you fracture a fairy tale anyway?

Take some tips from storytellers, via Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale.


Something that I like to do when working with folktale material is to create a beat sheet from a particular telling (written or oral, as I remember it). Forcing myself to remember the story helps to reduce it to its essential plot points. For storytellers, reduction often happens accidentally by forgetting details between tellings but it can also be a powerful tool for authors, especially combined with…


If reduction involves paring a tale down to the essential points, expansion is when the teller elaborates on that skeleton. Most authors can do this naturally, adding colour, specificity, and detail to the story beats we gained through reduction.

And finally…


Several times I have found myself troubled by several stories that seem to hold so much potential but something critical about their essential beats just does not work. They work as anecdotes, sometimes, but don’t have the depth of a well rounded tale. What to do? Reduction only reveals the underlying problem here, and expansion can only do so much to hide the flaws. What I like to do, and what many storytellers do naturally, is assimilate related or similar tales into one. In this way, the strengths of each story get to shine in a whole new tale!

Have you ever written your own fairy tale, or fairy tale retelling using established folklore as a base? How did you go about it? Or maybe you’ve been wanting to give it a try. Let me know either way in the comments! 🙂

Les Septs Crins Magiques et Autres Contes de Palestine, 2011

Les Sept Crins Magiques et Autres Contes de Palestine, by Praline Gay-Para and Louise Heugel is a delightful little book. The stories were told originally by Fakhri Habib Ghnayyim of Beit Jala, Taghrid Abou-Srour from Bethlehem, while others are from collections by Inea Bushnaq and Sonia Nimr.

Sommaire/ SUMMARY

  • Les deux frères [The Two Brothers]
  • L’ogre Ghaddar [Ghaddar the Ghoul]
  • L’ami reconnaissant [The Grateful Friend]
  • L’homme paresseux cherche sa chance [The Lazy Man Seeks His Luck]
  • Le jasmin qui danse, l’eau qui chante et l’oiseau avisé [The Dancing Jasmine, the Singing Water, and the Wise Bird]
  • Le dromadaire et l’âne [The Camel and the Donkey]
  • Les sept crins magiques [The Seven Magic Hairs]
  • Le partage de l’héritage [Sharing the Legacy]

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop and… Marketing Baby Steps

Marketing is our topic for today’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop. Well, this topic seems really strange to me; I’m one of those people who hates marketing. As such, I think it might be useful to talk a little about what holds us back and how we can get ourselves acclimated to the wonderful world of community building.

I picked up this book on Marketing: The 1-Page Marketing Plan and I kind of hate it. I hate marketing and it’s a book about marketing so what did I expect? I did not expect to find it so salutary. There is a lot that I bristle at in this book but it can’t be denied that its tips really do the trick, at least for me.

The greatest lesson this book taught me is how there is a three phase process, like a three act play structure, of people coming in cold to your work and becoming fans or customers. Each act or phase has its own challenges and goals.

Something that was holding me back all this time was that it felt all kinds of wrong to treat people like customers right out of the gate; and this is something I see a lot of other authors of all levels doing. It comes through as we plead with people out there to notice what we are working on, and hopefully to buy books (if you are published). And I was right; that’s the wrong way to go about it.

It’s okay to slow down and build a community– something that I love. I love bringing people together over shared interests. Relax, be yourself, socialize– and this is coming from an introvert. I am very pleased with the small group of people who choose to interact with my posts, to follow me on social media. I’m over the moon when they strike up a conversation. All of this is good marketing, and I haven’t hated a minute.

That’s all from me today. It’s my birthday! So I’m off to do some much needed R&R.

Please comment if you can relate at all to hating marketing, or struggling with it as I have. Or maybe you love it and have some sage words of advice for me. Drop me a line in either case; I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

An Illustrated Treasury of Palestinian Folktales Vol. 1, 2014

These stories are a delight. There are princes, princesses, village beauties, jealous cousins, magic, genies, and more all in one tiny book! I immediately told these to the pleasure of my audience who asked if there were more, and there are! This is only the first volume of the collection. I am unsure if the second volume is available in English but an Arabic version is available. The introduction mentions tales which are not in this volume, including some quite philosophical ones like “Where is the Mind?” I am looking forward to tracking down the second volume!

The foreword includes two statements, one by Charis Waddy and another by Issa Boullata. The most exciting feature of this little book is that it includes small biographies of the narrators– the women who told the author their folktales in the 1940s. Each one also includes a biography of sorts for the narrator’s home village, sketching it in words for the reader. There is even a short discussion of the role that the Palestine Broadcasting Station (PBS) played in early attempts to collect Palestinian folktales and the subsequent censorship by Israeli authorities which hampered this project, while spurring on the author to collect what she could.

This book is dedicated to… Palestinian women in recognition of their suffering and their steadfastness, their inestimable contribution to binding together Palestinian society and, most of all, for their unwavering courage and hope despite relentless Israeli efforts to tear asunder the fabric of family, community, and society.

I unfortunately must say that the quality of the book itself is lacking. The text contains a lot of typos and printing errors to the point that it is bothersome to read aloud.


  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • The Narrators
  • The Folktales
  • Daughter of the Rose and the Jasmine
  • Jbeini
  • The Sultan’s Daughter
  • The Bride’s Mahr
  • The Lentil
  • Flower of My House
  • A Promise Fulfilled
  • The Merchant of Damascus

Project Update: Granted Grants!

Astute followers of this blog will notice this logo now graces the website. I am so excited to announce that I have received a Recommender Grant for Writers from the Ontario Arts Council! The way the grant works: I sent a writing sample along with an application to recognized publishers in Ontario who then recommended the work be funded through the OAC. This is the first time I have been awarded a grant!

I had the support of many people, including my lovely followers on Twitter (you can follow me there @SoniaSulaiman). My friends and fellow writers Susan Muaddi Darraj, and Natasha Ranken beta read the application with me. I am truly grateful for their help.

The grant was awarded for a project tentatively titled ‘A Personal Paradise.’ It is a work that I have been writing on and off since 2006. It is a collection of free verse poems about cultural and personal reintegration, mapping a personal history of revision and healing. Palestinians are known among Arab communities as “the Poets of the Arabs,” and putting these stories into verse is one way of attempting to reintegrate a shattered family history and its legacy. The collection unfolds through the two main thematic threads of engagement with Palestinian folklore and generational trauma.

Here is the titular poem, the poem that started it all, first published in Whisky Sour City by Black Moss Press:

A Personal Paradise

Pistachios, pumpkin, watermelon seeds salted and fresh,

shelled with your teeth year round. Something to pass the time

when it’s too hot even under Walkerville maples and century elms;

the sun bakes their leaves before they fall.

Earl Grey strong and dark; it could stand up on its own

from its mounds of sugar. Thick, rampant, fresh spearmint

uprooted, plunged top-down and swished.

The wet leaves sticking like spinach as the tea slides down.

‘Too cold without, too hot without’ is a saying from Palestine

where tea is a treat for scorching days. Dad brought the habit

with his sandals, worn year round.

The mint patch outside the kitchen door fought back the chlorine stench

when neighbour kids cry ‘Marco Polo!’ over the fence

and the A.C. fan roars under the grape arbour’s shade.

In the next yard the little Sicilian fig tree turns its greedy leaves

to cup the sun before the autumn arrives. Soon Nicolo will dig its grave,

and bury it alive so it can be brought out again when the winter is past.

Lastly, in other news, today my application for a New/Early Career Artist profile was approved by the Canada Council for the Arts, meaning I can start applying for grants from the CCA as well. Very exciting!

Bible Tales in Arab Folk-Lore, 1928

The book in question, on my purse of many colours.

My newest acquisition! Bible Tales in Arab Folk-Lore by Joseph Meyouhas, translated from Hebrew by Victor N. Levi.

Once again, it is quotation time and once again, there is some disturbingly racist material in the introduction:

The modern Syrian Arabs are descended in unbroken, if not in racially pure, lineage from the Philistines, Canaanites and Amalekites, as the modern Jews are direct ‘children’ of the ancient Israelites. But the Arabs have allowed the centuries to flow past them; they have taken no part, for a thousand years, in the fret and enterprise, in the research and mastery of nature that we know as Progress. They have shepherded and tilled, bartered and believed as their ancestors, and they preserve to this day their primitive social customs and simple philosophic outlook.

Palestine is still peopled with the folk of the Bible, but they are passing.

Joseph Meyouhas, 1928

It goes on in this fashion: on the one hand asserting the indigeneity and historic continuity of the Palestinains (albeit in an Orientalist framing), and on the other lamenting the way these “folk of the Bible” are now driving trucks and wearing suits, and are soon to lose their ties to the Philistines et al. He would have found my grandfather alarming in the extreme.

Part I

  • The Creation
  • The Creation of Adam
  • Noah, the Prophet
  • Job and His Household
  • Lukman the Wise (A Kinsman of Job)
  • Ibrahim Khalil Allah (Abraham The Friend of God)
  • Ibrahim and Nimrod
  • Ibrahim in Hebron
  • The Last Days of Ibrahim
  • Lot
  • The Patience of Lot
  • Isaac and Yakub
  • Yusef the Righteous
  • Yusef in Egypt
  • The Meeting of Yusef with His Brethren
  • The Death of Yusef
  • Moussa
  • The Miracles that Moussa Did in His Childhood
  • Moussa in Midian
  • Zipporah Bears a Child
  • Moussa in Egypt
  • The Mission of Moussa to Pharaoh
  • The Nine Plagues
  • The Flight of the Beni Israel Out of Egypt
  • The Giving of the Law
  • The Death of Aaron
  • The Inheritance of the Land
  • The Last Days of Moussa

Part II

  • Joshua
  • Samuel
  • Taluth (Saul)
  • The Battle of Taluth and J’Aluth (Saul and Goliath)
  • Daoud and J’Aluth
  • The Last Days of Taluth
  • The Cunning of Daoud
  • The Kingdom of Daoud
  • Daoud and Uriah
  • The Last Days of Daoud
  • The Kingdom of Suleiman
  • The Wealth of Suleiman
  • Suleiman and the Woman of Sidon
  • Suleiman and Bulkeis, Queen of Sheba
  • The Last Days of Suleiman
  • Alhadr (Elijah)
  • Isaiah, the Prophet
  • The Prophet of Uzair (Jeremiah)
  • Yunes Ibn Matta (Jonah)

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop and… Poetry

Have you ever noticed that while there’s a seemingly endless amount of books on the craft of writing novels there’s comparatively little about poetry? Now, I suppose one reason for this is that many new writers imagine that novel writing will be their ticket to fame and fortune, while poets are unfortunate souls who live in poverty. I say this as a poet. It’s true that I find more people who dream of writing a novel than those who aspire to publish a book of poetry.

Even if you don’t want to be a poet, writing poetry can be beneficial to your prose crafting! It’s all about language. So, for this month’s #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, I’m going to throw some poetic inspiration your way!

No, I’m not going to run you through drills on meter and forms. The best way to learn that, imho, is to read John Hollander’s Rhyme’s Reason. The explanations for each form are themselves examples of the form! Ingenious and highly entertaining. Much better than anything I could provide.

To get us primed, here’s a performance that really highlights of the language of poetry, the music in it.

If you don’t know where to start, try this! Christopher Gilbert provides an exercise he calls “Que Sera, Sera” and Other False Premises.’ You will need a poem for this- you can use ‘Bean Meditation’ by Laura Lamb Brown-Lavoie if you like. Take an assertion from a poem and regard it as a false premise. Write about how this false premise impacted or will impact you. This isn’t about writing a poem based on this premise as a prompt; it’s planting a seed. Like a bean!