The Palestine Chronicle reviewed my book this week. Here’s an excerpt:
“What can I say about such a well written book that has not already been said: well crafted, thought provoking, illuminating, enlightening, informative… most importantly, Fast Times in Palestine highlights the essential humanity of Palestinians and their struggle with the constant oppression of Israeli society that surrounds all facets of their lives.
“In the face of overwhelming power, the message that underlies this story is the very idea of Palestinian existence. Not just base existence, but existence of a culture, a distinct society, that dares to live and breathe within the confines of walls, and razor wire, bombs and bullets, and any and all daily harassments that few in the western world face.”
But I have to say, my favorite review so far came from a reader in Colorado. She had precisely the reaction I was hoping for when I wrote the book. I wrote it for smart, compassionate people who want to learn about this conflict but don’t know where to start. People who know the information they’re getting is fragmented and filtered, but don’t even really understand the filters, so how are they supposed to know what’s true and what’s not? The story they get is fuzzy, vague, and colored with unstated biases. How are they supposed to make sense of it?
How was I, before I saw it for myself?
I wrote the book for the millions of people who want to know, want to find out in a way they can relate to, but don’t necessarily have the luxury of visiting the Middle East — or are frightened to travel there because of all the nonsense they hear all the time.
Here’s the review, from a female college student in Colorado. It really did my heart good.
Before I read this book, I didn’t have a stance on the conflict because I didn’t know enough. My family is Jewish and very pro-Israel, but I am agnostic and I try not to form opinions without facts, so I have always taken everything they say with a grain of salt. “The Palestinians don’t want a state. They don’t want peace. They won’t be happy until every Jew on the face of the Earth is dead.” This is what I grew up with.
But this book opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed: the world of occupied Palestine. I consider myself very aware politically, so it’s hard to believe the truth has eluded me for so many years. Never underestimate the power of the media, I guess. I get my information from a decent variety of sources, but when all those sources are deliberately hiding so much information, how is a person supposed to know any better? The media portrays Palestine as the aggressor in the conflict, and speaks of the government as if it represents the feelings of the general population.
What I really appreciate about this book is not just that the author tells the other side of the story, but that she makes a point of separating the government and the people. It is too easy to generalize, and I could see a person reading this book and turning their hatred toward Israel as a whole if the author had not taken such extreme care to depict every person she encountered as a human being… I especially appreciated this author’s reference to Dr. Philip Zimbardo’s prison experiment, and the “power of the situation.” Even the soldiers committing atrocities at checkpoints are real people. It is only through the dehumanization of people that mass acts of evil are possible.
I bought this book with the hope of learning about Palestinian culture and writing a good paper for school, and what I got out of it was so much more. I believe it should be required reading in schools, and I’m encouraging everyone I know to read it.
You can read the other fifteen Amazon reviews the book has received here. And please feel free to add your own. A full-length review is not necessary; a sentence or two will suffice. The main thing is, the more reviews the book has, the higher it will be displayed on search pages, and the more people will be exposed to an alternative narrative about Israel and Palestine.
P.S. I’m enjoying the fact that Amazon put my book in the category “Israel Travel Guides” (among others). My Kindle edition tends to bounce around in the top 20, and I hope it gives a few prospective travelers something to think about…
P.P.S. This quote by blogger Barry Eisler sums up why I wrote my book the way I did, instead of writing straight journalism or scholarly analysis:
“Orwell addressed the major themes of Nineteen Eighty-Four a few years earlier, in his essay Notes on Nationalism. And yet Notes, as excellent as it is, is read much less widely. Why? Because certain themes resonate more powerfully when presented within the structure of a thriller—when brought to life in the conflicts and confusion of characters on the page.”
Bingo! As Buckminster Fuller said, “Don’t fight forces, use them.” It’s human nature to process narratives more easily and robustly than facts. Why fight it when you have the potential to use it as your most effective fact delivery system?
P.P.P.S. I’ve got 50 signed copies of Fast Times in Palestine on sale now. If you order five or more, I’ll only charge $10 each. I’m trying to unload them before the touring starts in early fall. I don’t want to leave them in storage — I want them to be read! Email me at pamolson @ gmail . com if interested.