Site icon Susan Muaddi Darraj

Behind You Is the Sea: A Novel

Publication in January 2024! Pre-order now!

An exciting debut novel that gives voice to the diverse residents of a Palestinian American community in Baltimore—from young activists in conflict with their traditional parents to the poor who clean for the rich—lives which intersect across divides of class, generation, and religion.

STARRED REVIEW: Booklist – “In this episodic debut novel, Darraj portrays the joys, resentments, and yearnings of three generations of a tight-knit Palestinian American community. . . . Marvelous and moving.” 

STARRED REVIEW: Kirkus – “[Stories are] masterfully choreographed in a book in which each chapter reads like a small masterpiece. . . . A moving portrait of Palestinian families caught between the pressures of the Old World and the New.” 

Funny and touching, 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.

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.


“We desperately need more books like this in which Palestinian people are presented as beautiful, richly complex human beings, not consigned to insulting, diminishing references. Gratitude to Susan Muaddi Darraj for her very necessary, beautiful work.” — Naomi Shihab Nye

“Not the Arabian Nights, but a new Arabian Days for our time, the intricately interlocked stories of Behind You Is the Sea bring us richly detailed news of the Palestinian immigrant experience in America…” —  Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls’ Rising, Child of Light: A Biography of Robert Stone, and Behind the Moon

“Susan Muaddi Darraj’s Behind You is the Sea is a powerful and moving novel about the lives of Palestinian immigrants. Told in rich, lush prose, this propulsive and beautiful novel will stay with me for a long time. I loved it.” — Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Removed

Behind You Is the Seasweeps readers along as its characters search for love, dignity, and belonging while carving out their own unique destinies. The result sometimes defies cultural tradition and risks deep losses, but these characters always land closer to their personal truths. With tenderness and fitting humor, Muaddi Darraj deftly weaves multiple Arab American voices into a resonant chorus of humanity.” — Sahar Mustafah, author of The Beauty of Your Face

Susan Muaddi Darraj’s Behind You Is the Sea, a tale of the interwoven lives of Palestinian American families in Baltimore, Md., will get your heart racing and leave you sitting at the edge of your seat. Muaddi Darraj paints highly complex and authentic portraits of Arabs in America as they struggle with poverty, religion, living in between two cultures and the pursuit of the American Dream. This page-turner of a novel is an instant classic, and a welcome addition to the cannon of writing on the Arab American experience. —Malaka Gharib, author of the graphic memoirs, It Won’t Always Be Like This and I Was Their American Dream

“With this unforgettable collection of stories, Susan Muaddi Darraj assumes a unique place in American letters, her Palestinian sensibilities animating universal truths of the human condition. With gritty realism and poetic grace, she writes not simply of survival, but of dignity and flawed nobility in a world overflowing with cynicism and pain. From beginning to end, this novel-in-stories is filled with characters not easily forgotten, and the final story is, quite simply, one of the best that I have ever read. I am grateful for this book.” — Frye Gaillard, author of A Hard Rain

“In Behind You Is The Sea, multiple generations of a family confront stubborn, complicated truths while shouldering the burdensome weight of history. Susan Muaddi Darraj has fashioned a moving tale in which love, beauty, and life persist despite many injustices — indeed, despite everything.” — Jabari Asim, author of Yonder

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