Fast Times in Palestine was published by Seal Press in March 2013. You can learn more about the book on its website, which features a synopsis, news, reviews, and excerpts, and on its Amazon page.

It was named a Top Ten Travel Book of 2013 by Publishers Weekly and a Best Travel Book of Spring by National Geographic.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or ideas for events, or if you’d like to join my low-volume email list (around six emails per year): pamolson (a) gmail.



“A moving, inspiring account of life in occupied Palestine that’s enormously informative yet reads like a novel.”

    — Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace

“It’s love in the time of occupation as Pamela Olson takes us on the emotional roller-coaster of her very personal experience of life in Ramallah — and in doing so lays bare the human drama of a people determined to live free.”

    — Tony Karon, Senior Editor, TIME

“Harrowing, funny, vivid, entertaining and deeply humane, Fast Times in Palestine opens a rare window onto Palestinian life. It’s impossible not to be moved on nearly every page.”

    — Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree

“I realize that without knowing it, I have long waited for this book, although I could not have imagined its lyric magic in advance of reading.”

    — Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories (Full review)

“Olson is clear in laying out the stark truth of dispossession, oppression, and outright racism imposed on the Palestinians.”

    — Chris McGreal, The Guardian

“Pamela Olson leads the reader on an exciting, funny, at times heart-wrenching journey, carefully deciphering complex political and historical issues.”

    — Ramzy Baroud, author of My Father was a Freedom Fighter

“The strength of the narrative lies in Olson’s investigation of the personal and mental effects of oppression and war on herself and her newfound friends.”

    — Kirkus Reviews

“Engaging and easy to read, this is a fascinating memoir.”

    — Publishers Weekly




Fast Times in Palestine is a searing education disguised as an irresistible travel memoir — think George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia meets Eat Pray Love in the Holy Land. It is the true story of an aimless physics major / ex-bartender from small-town Oklahoma who stumbled into the Holy Land in late 2003, frightened and ignorant but deeply curious.

With dizzying speed she found herself working as a journalist based in Ramallah, coordinating the foreign press for a Palestinian presidential candidate, sharing a holiday dinner with a suicide bomber’s family, tour-guiding Israeli friends around the West Bank, dating a Palestinian from a conservative Muslim village, being held at gunpoint and injured by a stun grenade, and witnessing the 2005 Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip.

The gripping narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and politics but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic drama that happen in between. From idyllic olive groves to Palestinian beer gardens, from Passover Seders in Tel Aviv to Ramadan in Hamas villages, from house parties in Ramallah to militant rallies in Nablus, the book is packed with suspense, humor, and unforgettable characters.

Its seamless blend of travelogue, memoir, and narrative journalism ramps the average American up to a sophisticated, multi-faceted understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict.




    Chapter 1: From the Midwest to the Middle East

    Chapter 2: Olives, Tea, and Assault Rifles

      Part 1

      1. Arab Israelis
      2. Into the West Bank

      Part 2

      1. Jayyous

      Part 3

      1. The Wall
      2. Olive Rain

      Part 4

      1. Surrounded
      2. Rania’s House
      3. Yusif’s Islam
      4. Qais
      5. Ramadan

    Chapter 3: Behind the Fence

      Part 1

      1. Nablus
      2. Dan in Israel
      3. Ramadan Daze

      Part 2

      1. Dan in Palestine
      2. Thunderstorm
      3. Helicopters and Hellfire
      4. Settlement

      Part 3

      1. The Eid
      2. The Last Picnic
      3. Home Again

    Chapter 4: Ramallah—Palestine has its own Beer?

      1. Ben Gurion Airport
      2. Ramallah
      3. The Muqataa
      4. Office Life
      5. Sangria’s
      6. Invasion Party
      7. Yasmine
      8. Ramallah International Film Festival
      9. Cops and Robbers
      10. Cold War and Peace

    Chapter 5: Suddenly a Journalist

      1. Grapevines and Sea Breezes
      2. Amman Again
      3. Home Sweet Ramallah
      4. Dead Sea Stroll
      5. Arabian Idol
      6. Bethlehem’s Walls
      7. Goons. Hired Goons.
      8. An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

    Chapter 6: Bombings, Weddings, and a Kidnapping

      1. Suicide Bomb
      2. Checkpoint Wedding
      3. Disappeared
      4. Osama the Commie
      5. Shoot ’em Up
      6. Zeitoun
      7. Another Bombing
      8. Days of Penitence

    Chapter 7: Arafat’s Funeral

      1. Ramallah Ramadan
      2. Rest in Peace, Abu Ammar
      3. Holiday in Jayyous
      4. Omar’s Story
      5. My Boss Decides to Run for President

    Chapter 8: Running for President in a Nation without a Country

      1. Announcement on the Run
      2. Campaign Trail
      3. Beaten in the Street
      4. Christmas: Dire Straits in Bethlehem
      5. Mass Destruction
      6. New Year’s in a Garden on the Moon (Click to read my CounterPunch article that this chapter section is based on)
      7. Shifting and Swifting
      8. Election Day

    Chapter 9: Holy Land Spring

      1. Gunpoint
      2. Eid al Adha
      3. Mrs. Mayor
      4. Ceasefire
      5. Suicide Bomber’s Family Shunned
      6. Rescue Divers!
      7. Thuglife
      8. Nablus in April (Click to read the blog post that this chapter section is based on)
      9. Passover
      10. Bab al Shams

    Chapter 10: The Grand Tour

    Chapter 11: The Gaza Disengagement

      1. Pre-Disengagement Thoughts
      2. New Roommates and Swank Parties
      3. East Jerusalem Outrage
      4. Hip Hop and a Grenade
      5. Disengagement Fever
      6. Israeli Musicians Discover Ramallah (Click to read about this historic concert, which I attended in 2005)
      7. What Ceasefire?
      8. Waterfalls and Hurricanes
      9. Drinking by the Sea in Gaza

    Chapter 12: The Last Ramadan

      1. Visa Laundering
      2. The Last Perfect Day
      3. Islamic Jihad vs. Hamas
      4. Gaza Holiday (This segment has been cut from the book and posted on my blog)
      5. Ahmed’s Heart (Click to read about a courageous decision by a dying Palestinian boy’s family)
      6. Dinner with a Suicide Bomber’s Family
      7. Settler Logic
      8. The Last Straw
      9. Leaving Ramallah
      10. Sinai Reflections

    For more information, see my main website: