Behind You Is the Sea brings us into the homes and lives of three main families—the Baladis, the Salamehs, and the Ammars—Palestinian immigrants who’ve all found a different welcome in America.
Their various fates and struggles cause their community dynamic to sizzle and sometimes explode: The wealthy Ammar family employs young Maysoon Baladi, whose family struggles financially, to clean up after their spoiled teenagers. Meanwhile, Marcus Salameh, whose aunt married into the wealthy Ammar family, confronts his father in an effort to protect his younger sister for “dishonoring” the family. Only a trip to Palestine, where Marcus experiences an unexpected and dramatic transformation, can bridge this seemingly unbridgeable divide between the two generations.
Behind You Is the Sea faces stereotypes about Palestinian culture head-on and, shifting perspectives to weave a complex social fabric replete with weddings, funerals, broken hearts, and devastating secrets.
About the craft of writing linked short stories
Author Susan Muaddi Darraj:
“Linked short stories give me the space to do several things: 1) I can explore specific moments in time, but 2) I can also pull back, as with a movie camera, and offer a panoptic view of a particular place. 3) I am able to transition over large gaps in time, from World War I to the Arab Revolt, for example, or from 1948 to the years before the 1967 Arab Israeli War. Those advantages — plus the fun of linking together these characters — make it an enjoyable genre in which to write.”
“In A Curious Land, the stories are linked, but they stand alone as well. That bracelet, which is a traditional wedding gift in Palestine — a bracelet of Turkish liras, of coins linked together — reflects the structure of the book. The stories are individual coins, valuable in their own right, but when they are linked together, they make something new altogether. Of course, the bracelet also plays an important role in several of the stories — it will save Rabab, in the opening story, and it will remind Adlah, in the final story, of the importance of family.”
Susan Muaddi Darraj has written other linked short story collections, including A Curious Land, mentioned in the quotation above.