Samir, who lives on the occupied West Bank, must go to the Jewish Hospital for surgery, and live for weeks in a room with four Jewish children.

My name is Samir. I am alone. Alone in the Jews’ hospital waiting for the doctor from America to operate on my broken knee. Alone with my thoughts, my regrets, my wondering, “What if...?”

What if I hadn’t ridden my bike down the market steps? What if my brother Fadi had not come home in a dirty, bloodstained blanket? What if he had not died?

Would my father still talk to me if Fadi were alive? Sometimes I think they are both dead, my father’s body nothing but an empty shell that doesn’t know how to give up.

But the past is the past, and I must deal with the present: living in a hospital room with two boys and two girls. It is warm and quiet, people don’t run or shout or shoot, and I have three meals a day, all I want to eat. Just the same, I know I am alone and afraid. I know I do not belong here.

Then one night, after lights out, when everyone else is asleep, Jonatan, who spends all day reading, begins to talk to me. He talks about stars, planets, and doing things together, just the two of us. I am too afraid to answer.

Another night, the electricity goes out, and he tells all of us about the stars, distant worlds and the creatures who live on them. And suddenly there’s something serious in the air. Tzahi explains what happens when the nurses pull the curtains around his bed. Razia talks about her father and how frightened of him she is when he’s been drinking, and why she won’t see him when he comes to visit her. It’s as if the darkness makes it easier to say things we’d never say in the daylight.

But I don’t speak, even though I can understand what they’re saying in Hebrew, because I used to work in a Jewish grocery store. I’m different. I don’t belong here – at least that’s what I believe, until the night when Jonatan talks to me, and I decide to answer him.

This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart.