Illuminating reading from a highly engaged author.

PAY NO HEED TO THE ROCKETS

LIFE IN CONTEMPORARY PALESTINE

A noted Canadian nonfiction writer examines the Palestinian conflict through the viewpoints of known and emerging Palestinian writers.

Di Cintio (Walls: Travels Along the Barricades, 2013, etc.) first traveled to Israel in 1999. When he returned again in 2015, it was to seek out Palestinian writers to learn how they, rather than activists and politicians, saw the Arab-Israeli conflict. In this literary travelogue, the author records his encounters with Arab writers from the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. His first meeting was with a childhood friend of Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. Both lived through the takeover of their village by Israeli soldiers in 1948, a moment that would mark Darwish and his writing forever. Fascinated by the lively literary scene in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Darwish’s home-in-exile for many years, Di Cintio explored the perspectives of other notable West Bank writers, including Lebanese-born Maya Abu-Alhayyat, who grew up knowing Palestine only “from what I saw on television.” A poet and short story writer, she eventually began writing for the most vulnerable of all Palestinians: children robbed of their innocence by parents and teachers who “want[ed] them to behave like adults and participate in the struggle.” In Jerusalem, Di Cintio met writers like 20-year-old Mohammed El-Kurd, whose poetry not only celebrated the contributions of women to the Palestinian struggle, but also actively “challenge[d] Palestinian masculine ideals.” Traveling to Nazareth, Di Cintio encountered Raji Bathish, a gay short story writer who vehemently rejected the idea that Israel’s accommodation of LGBTQ people was “evidence of [its] humanitarian virtue.” In the Gaza Strip, Di Cintio chatted with Asmaa al-Ghul, yet another outspoken young writer, whose stories about “ ‘honor killings,’ domestic abuse and government corruption have earned her scorn from Gaza’s authorities and an enduring notoriety from readers.” Interweaving history and politics, the book introduces Western readers to the modern Palestinian literary scene while celebrating the rich diversity of voices that comprise it.

Illuminating reading from a highly engaged author.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-081-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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