Finalist for the 2022 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
Elegant, surprising stories about Palestinian immigrants in Canada navigating their identities in circumstances that push them to the emotional brink.
Saeed Teebi’s intense, engrossing stories plunge into the lives of characters grappling with their experiences as Palestinian immigrants to Canada. A doctor teaches his girlfriend about his country, only for her to fall into a consuming obsession with the Middle East conflict. A math professor risks his family’s destruction by slandering the king of a despotic, oil-rich country. A university student invents an imaginary girlfriend to fit in with his callous, womanizing roommates. A lawyer takes on the impossible mission of becoming a body smuggler. A lonely widower travels to Russia in search of a movie starlet he met in his youth in historical Jaffa. A refugee who escaped violent circumstances rebels against the kindness of his sponsor. These taut and compelling stories engage the immigrant experience and reflect the Palestinian diaspora with grace and insight.
About the author
SAEED TEEBI is a writer and lawyer based in Toronto. His story “Her First Palestinian” was shortlisted for the 2021 CBC Short Story Prize. He was born to Palestinian parents in Kuwait and, after some time in the U.S., has lived in Canada since 1993.
- Nominated, Forest of Reading Evergreen Award
- Short-listed, Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Award
- Runner-up, Writers' Union of Canada Danuta Gleed Literary Award
- Short-listed, Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
If humanising Palestinians without purposefully tugging on heartstrings is what Teebi set out to do, he has accomplished his goal with aplomb. His stories — original, intelligent and finely nuanced — present characters who, although vastly different, are united in a uniquely Palestinian form of loneliness, one that stems from feeling out of place in a world that sees them as a nuisance.
The National News
A deeply moving collection.
Teebi perfectly captures intergenerational and intercultural tension in stories as brilliant and cutting as finely hewn diamonds.
Saeed Teebi brilliantly and humorously examines what it means to be a diasporic subject in his debut short story collection, Her First Palestinian … The collection is a refreshing contribution to the corpus of Palestinian diasporic literature, offering stories not centred around the grief of displacement and generational loss but ones that cunningly and wittingly interrogate migrant life in Canada.
Sometimes a writer comes along whose stories are not only complex and full and exquisitely written, but whose vision and political voice feels necessary. In Her First Palestinian, Saeed Teebi coaxes the reader in a certain direction, and then flips the narrative so that now we are complicit, and we see our own guilt in the great divide that exists between the privileged and the stranger. Teebi does this with subtle humour and a wry tone. He does not preach, yet his writing expresses a certain fervour that is essential. He is a vital voice.
Jury Citation, Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
Teebi’s book is an absolute page-turner that I finished in a single sitting. His beautifully layered prose grapples with a number of engrossing characters who navigate life as Palestinian immigrants in Canada, taking the reader on a journey through their compelling, nuanced, and surprising experiences.
Globe and Mail
With intriguing plot-lines, nuanced characters and stunning prose … Her First Palestinian is an invitation to read the room and engage critically as conversations about Palestine, familial and romantic relationships, and moral conflicts permeate the walls.
Her First Palestinian stands as a complex, intricately crafted piece of fiction — explorative, confident and struck by the harsh realities of immigrant life … Teebi beautifully blends the line between the desire to start a new life elsewhere and finding comfort in belonging to a place where resistance and hope will always persevere.
Dryly witty and cynical ... Teebi’s prose is crisp and calmly civilized.
Winnipeg Free Press
Cutting against this grain, Teebi’s storytelling brings to life the unique experiences of Palestinians, powerfully highlighting their humanity, personhood and agency, as well as their colonial dispossession. … Her First Palestinian offers a richer understanding of the world through Palestinian eyes and inspires a greater appreciation of the diverse people who now reside in Canada.
Each story in Teebi’s collection crackles with wit, intensity and elegance … A probing and absolutely unforgettable book.
The Miramichi Reader
Her First Palestinian is a layered, fully imagined work of fiction: probing, sure of itself, astounded by life’s cruelties and surprising joys and by its ironies large and small.
Literary Review of Canada
[Teebi’s] prose, wit and humour guide the reader on a journey through nine unusual takes on life within the Palestinian diaspora, as well as providing glimpses into the family lives and rich culture of its members.