Kirkus Reviews QR Code


edited by Ru Freeman

Pub Date: Dec. 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-682190-08-1
Publisher: OR Books

An anthology calling upon American writers to address the plight of the Palestinians.

Editor Freeman (On Sal Mal Lane, 2013, etc.) notes in her introduction, “what can and cannot be done in America is a question that carries enormous hope on the part of people who do not live here.” She casts “the impetus to ask a group of writers to reflect on the ongoing assault on the thin and shifting borders of Palestine” in historical terms, citing similar projects rooted in the tumult of 1937 and 1967. The structure is somewhat jumbled: such sections as “Erasure” or “The Un/Making of History” mix fiction, poetry, or narrative essays, while only some writers provide introductory commentary. Several well-known writers responded with older work, like novelist Colum McCann, who notes, “this might sound odd, but there is as much Gaza as Derry in this story.” In describing her poem “The Story of Joshua,” Alicia Ostricker avers, “as an American Jew...Israel/Palestine is like a weird doppelganger beating and beating alongside my own heart.” Some authors present fusions of form, such as Janne Teller’s alphabetized entry, which indexes the events leading to the current state of conflict. Other writers respond with brief essays examining one aspect of the situation—e.g., Laila Lalami’s “The Nameless Palestinian Prisoners,” which notes the refusal of Israeli newspapers to acknowledge the identities of detainees; or Kiese Laymon’s “My Mama Went to Palestine,” which recalls her mother’s lifelong study of “poverty and structural oppression.” Elsewhere, poet Naomi Shihab Nye tersely compares the deaths of children in Gaza to recollections of an idyllic childhood in Ferguson, Missouri, now known for its own unrest. Other notable contributors include Jane Hirshfield, Tess Gallagher, Leslie Jamison, Claire Messud, Alice Walker, Teju Cole, and George Saunders.

A vibrant, high-spirited collection that will appeal to those on one side of this complex geopolitical conundrum.