Draw Me a Gun: Children’s Books in the Trenches of the ‘Arab Hanoi’

By Zeina Maasri
Submitted to Session P4677 (Representations Respond to History & Trauma, 2016 Annual Meeting
Art/Art Hist
Lebanon; Palestine;
Arab-Israeli Conflict; Cultural Studies; Globalization; Identity/Representation; Media; Modern; Pop Culture; Transnationalism;
LCD Projector without Audio;
In 1974 Dar al-Fata al-Arabi, a vanguard pan-Arab Children’s publishing house linked to the PLO, was launched in Beirut. It came to represent a radical node of solidarity among Arab artists, intellectuals and writers committed to the Palestinian cause and to revolutionary change in the Arab world. In very short time, the publishing house produced an outstanding body of books, which revolutionized children’s Arabic literature in terms of politics, pedagogy, texts and aesthetics.
I examine Dar al-Fata al-Arabi as a historical case study in the discursive and aesthetic conjuncture of the ‘Arab-Hanoi’; a revolutionary moment that articulated the Palestinian liberation movement within the political geography and temporality of Third-World anti-imperialism.
This paper will focus on one polemical publication titled 'The Home' by Zakaria Tamer and Mohieddin Ellabbad issued in 1974. The little booklet creatively introduced to young readers the difficult concepts of nation, occupation, universal rights and struggle for liberation. Despite earning international acclaim, The Home’s encouragement of armed means of struggle in the context of children’s literature requires some careful scrutiny. I henceforth analyse the discursive and aesthetic articulation of this publication’s politics within the purview of a global revolutionary moment. I trace The Home’s social life from production in Beirut to transnational circulation and subsequent translations, including a controversial 1986 English UK edition. My paper thus probes the book’s itinerary to offer a critical reflection on the historical junctures and disjuncture of the Palestinian struggle with global politics of solidarity and more pertinently, the utopias and disenchantment of a leftist discourse of political commitment, 'iltizam', through the arts.