Author Chat With Aya Ghanameh (THESE OLIVE TREES), Plus Giveaway! ~ US Only!

Today we are very excited to share a special interview with author Aya Ghanameh (These Olive Trees)!

Read on to learn more about her, her book, and a giveaway!




Meet the Author: Aya Ghanameh

Aya Ghanameh is a Palestinian illustrator, writer, and designer from Amman, Jordan. Her work moves away from state-centric ways of thinking to center the voices of ordinary people in historical and political narratives. Her debut picture book, These Olive Trees, is inspired by the experiences of her family who cultivated her love of the land throughout her upbringing in exile. Having graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, she is currently based in New York City where she overspends on food from Arab restaurants.

Website * Twitter * Instagram




About the Book: These Olive Trees

The story of a Palestinian family’s ties to the land, and how one young girl finds a way to care for her home, even as she says goodbye.

It’s 1967 in Nablus, Palestine.

Oraib loves the olive trees that grow outside the refugee camp where she lives. Each harvest, she and her mama pick the small fruits and she eagerly stomp stomp stomps on them to release their golden oil. Olives have always tied her family to the land, as Oraib learns from the stories Mama tells of a home before war.

But war has come to their door once more, forcing them to flee. Even as her family is uprooted, Oraib makes a solemn promise to her beloved olive trees. She will see to it that their legacy lives on for generations to come.

Debut author-illustrator Aya Ghanameh boldly paints a tale of bitterness, hope, and the power of believing in a free and thriving future.

Purchase * Goodreads




~Author Chat~


YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book? 

This book is about my grandmother, and she has been an inspiration to me my entire life. Millions of Palestinians have a very similar story, and I think that writing this book was inevitable for me as a young artist coming to this country. I came to the US as a college student and the amount of backlash and harassment I experienced, both from students and faculty alike, would sound insane to anyone I talked to about it. I found that my identity as a Palestinian woman is seen as controversial. To some, threatening even. And because I’d lived my whole life in a community of Palestinians in exile in Jordan and the occupied West Bank, I’d never been confronted with harassment on the basis of race and religion outside of the internet. Though from some it is malicious, for many it is ignorance. I think the book resulted from the accumulation of these experiences my senior of college. It was a dummy I put together my senior year for a class. All of my work as an artist in my years at the Rhode Island School of Design had turned into work about my identity, my family, and the collective Palestinian identity and experience. Telling my grandmother’s story is the most natural course my work could have taken when I think about these experiences and how I even got here.



YABC: What research did you do to write this book? 

Around the time I started writing this book I was taking a course at Brown called ‘Palestine vs. the Palestinians’ and we had extensively delved into Palestinian oral history and how it has the potential to be used as a source for understanding and recognizing the past. Oral history has been a vital part of countering the occupation’s narrative, and they’ve taken any and every measure to suppress our truths since the start. I think this project came out of that. The story is that of a Palestinian’s in the narratives of the Palestinian themselves, establishing legitimacy for the stories of refugees that were expelled by being distributed and accepted into the mainstream. I was doing research for a paper on Palestinian identity/sense of self by examining art and graphic narrative work around this time as well. Historically, prominent Palestinian artists and writers like Naji Al-Ali and Ghassan Kanafani were assassinated for their work. I feel it’s important to note this because it helped me understand better the weight our work carries, and how I ended up with the picture book format. The act of writing and depicting a truth like this is an act of revolutionary love, and it wouldn’t be so violently suppressed if it weren’t so threatening to the occupation. If you’re unfamiliar with Al-Ali’s and Kanafani’s work I cannot recommend it enough!



YABC: How do you keep your ‘voice’ true to the age category you are writing within? 

it was a bit of a struggle with a book like this because I couldn’t use words like occupation or settler colonialism. Not because they aren’t true, but because they would be very difficult to make sense of in a story for this age group. And language is so important when we talk about the Palestinian struggle because it is often talked about so poorly here. The Palestinian struggle is so commonly framed as a war between two countries, or as a conflict, which implies that there are two sides, equal in power, fighting it out over a territory when this could not be farther from the truth. I used the author’s note as a space to speak more casually and freely because that’s a section that I think is meant more for a parent. You read a book to a child with a topic that is considered heavy and for a lot of people not age appropriate, and then you get context and language in an authors note that help you guide the conversation you have with your child that follows. It was so important for me to be able to have that language in there even if it’s just in the authors note because of how much scrutiny there is around the language Palestinians use to talk about our own struggle.



YABC: How do you plan to celebrate the launch of your book? 

It’s funny because I didn’t think about this until a friend asked me this last week and I realized I have nothing planned. I don’t think it’s set in that this is a real thing that will be published and out there and read by people. I may just grab a nice dinner with some friends! As long as my family at home in Jordan and Palestine are happy with the physical book in their hands I’ll be very happy. 



YABC: What do you do when you procrastinate? 

I find myself putting off doing things that would actually not take me that long to complete for so long, sometimes for weeks. I end up thinking about doing it so much that it stresses me out into not doing it and I’m in this constant state of anxiety over the thought of it. I try to change the environment I’m working in when this happens and force myself to get into it. If I’m alone at a cafe and there’s not much to do after treating myself and I have no one to talk to I’ll end up defaulting to that task I’ve been procrastinating. I’ll also treat myself to something I don’t normally get only after completing it so I have more incentive (not that there aren’t other way more important reasons to complete it).



YABC: What is your favorite holiday or tradition and why? 

Eid! Eid Al-Adha specifically. It’s one of the largest holidays celebrated worldwide in Islam by Muslims. It comes from an Abrahamic story I’m sure most would be familiar with: the Prophet Ibrahim is made to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as an act of obedience to Allah’s command. But before Ibrahim sacrifices his son, and because of his willingness to do so, Allah provides him with a lamb to sacrifice in his son’s place. My last name is the Arabic word for lamb, so my dad always thought it was funny to put little sheep all over the house during Eid. Our house would be decked out with sheep-related decor everywhere. I miss that now.



YABC: What other age group would you consider writing for?

Young Adult. I’ve had a graphic novel idea that may or may not ever exist potentially in the works for years and before that all of my picture and word work was in the form of zines and comics as a student. I like to put a lot of what I feel and what happens around me to paper so writing YA would definitely be something I’m interested in.



YABC: What’s up next for you?

I’ve been working on illustrations for another picture book coming out Summer 2024 by the incredibly talented Rahma Rodaah called ‘Dear Muslim Child’. This picture book is a follow up to Rodaah’s previous title, ‘Dear Black Child’, that will similarly be a lyrical ode. This time to Muslim children all over the world, in a joyful celebration of Islam. After this, I’m not sure. Maybe that graphic novel I’ve always hoped to get to work one, and maybe another picture book as a few ideas do come to mind. In terms of illustration alone though, I would love to work on more titles! It’s been such a joy and honor to work on both ‘These Olive Trees’ and ‘Dear Muslim Child’ so far.





Author: Aya Ghanameh

Release Date: August 22, 2023

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

ISBN-10: 0593525180

ISBN-13: 9780593525180

Genre: Picture Book

Age Range: 3-5




~ Giveaway Details ~


Three (3) winners will receive a hardcover copy of These Olive Trees (Aya Ghanameh) ~US Only!


*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*


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4 thoughts on “Author Chat With Aya Ghanameh (THESE OLIVE TREES), Plus Giveaway! ~ US Only!”

  1. astromgren says:

    The cover reminds me of something I would have read when I was little! The concept is different though, which is so good!

  2. I love my kids learning about different cultures!

  3. Cori says:

    Beautiful cover

  4. The cover is sweet and I enjoy learning about new peoples and cultures.

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