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PALESTINE SPEAKS

NARRATIVES OF LIFE UNDER OCCUPATION

A sympathetic view of Palestinians not to be mistaken for objective reporting.

An oral history of life in Gaza and the West Bank, obtained through interviews conducted over a period of nearly four years, lets a diversity of Palestinians speak their minds about their situations.

Hoke (English/Bethlehem Univ.) and Malek are journalists with Voice of Witness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to examining human crises around the world. With the aid of translators and transcribers, they recorded the voices of 50 interviewees and then edited the transcripts for clarity. Of the 16 people selected to tell their stories here, only two are Israelis, for the object is not to provide balance but to illustrate what life is like for Palestinians. Male and female, young and middle-aged, educated or not, mostly but not all middle class, these Palestinians narrate their experiences growing up and living next to Israelis or in areas where Israel controls major aspects of their lives. Some took part in the Intifadas, some spent time in prison, and some lived for years outside Palestine and then chose to move there. Some are resigned to the restrictions of their lives, while some are hopeful of a brighter future. About 50 pages of appendices give context to their personal stories. The first, “Timeline of Modern Palestine,” opens with the date 8000 B.C. and ends with 2014 but has no mention of the events of that explosive summer. Appendix III is an essay on Palestine and international law by Allegra Pacheco, the wife of one of the Palestinian interviewees, and Appendix IV is a piece by journalist Nicolas Pelham on the Gaza tunnels that focuses on their economic importance to Hamas. The oral histories that make up the bulk of the book paint a harsh picture of Israeli restrictions on the lives of Palestinians; however, failure of the lengthy appendices to discuss the necessity for such restriction—suicide bombers, rocket attacks, Hamas’ stated goal of the destruction of Israel—is a serious flaw.

A sympathetic view of Palestinians not to be mistaken for objective reporting.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1940450247

Page Count: 320

Publisher: McSweeney's/Voice of Witness

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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