Deeply unsettling, important stories call for urgent responses to the Middle East conflict.

KINGDOM OF OLIVES AND ASH

WRITERS CONFRONT THE OCCUPATION

On the 50th anniversary of Israeli occupation of Palestine, top writers bear witness to oppression and despair.

When Waldman (A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, 2017, etc.) visited Israel for the Jerusalem International Writers Festival in 2014, she met members of the nonprofit groups Breaking the Silence and Youth Against Settlements, who helped her to understand “the massive, often brutal, always dehumanizing military bureaucracy” that defines the occupation. Hoping to focus attention on the desperate situation, she and her husband, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Chabon (Moonglow, 2016, etc.), invited an international roster of writers to tour towns and villages in the Israeli-occupied territories and meet with community organizers, workers, artists, activists, farmers, and families, as well as Israeli settlers and disillusioned soldiers. Their responses to those visits are moving, heartbreaking, and infuriating, testifying to the chilling cruelty of Israel’s policy toward Palestinians. Even Palestinians given Israeli citizenship are vulnerable to “demographic transfer”—or “forced displacement” in order “to achieve the ‘purity’ of ‘the Jewish state,’ ” writes Palestinian-born, British-educated Fida Jiryis. “One can only wonder at the sadistic ingenuity with which Israel has woven an airtight system around us to suffocate every aspect of our lives.” Walls are a recurrent image: they keep Palestinians in their crumbling towns and separate farmers from their land, workers from their jobs, and family members from one another. Gaza, writes Dave Eggers, “is a prison” with a 40-mile, 25-foot wall on its northern border with Israel and the heavily patrolled Mediterranean on the west. Checkpoints require elaborate documentation, which takes countless hours to assemble. As Chabon notes, “control of time is one of the biggest weapons of the occupation.” Young soldiers wield deadly power capriciously; houses are evacuated and razed in the middle of the night; a refugee camp has “no infrastructure of any kind.” Among the most well-known contributors are Geraldine Brooks, Mario Vargas Llosa, Colum McCann, and Jacqueline Woodson; royalties will go to NGOs.

Deeply unsettling, important stories call for urgent responses to the Middle East conflict.

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243178-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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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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