Readers wishing for a little more about food and a little less about nationalism may want to look elsewhere, but Raviv...

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FALAFEL NATION

CUISINE AND THE MAKING OF NATIONAL IDENTITY IN ISRAEL

What’s in a falafel? By the lights of food-studies and nutrition adjunct professor Raviv, it’s not just chickpeas and pita bread, but also identity.

You are what you eat. That’s true of nations as much as people, and that can be a problem if what you eat is what your neighbor eats—or, as the author writes, “Who has the right to falafel? Whose hummus is bigger?” As she shows, foods such as falafel and hummus, now mainstays of the Israeli diet—and, yes, of Israeli self-definition—owe to neighboring Arabic traditions and were absorbed into Israel’s cuisine through a process whereby, to put it one way, Europeans shed their European identities: “Israelis’ choice of falafel and hummus as markers of identity should perhaps be perceived as a reflection of their wish to become part of the Middle East.” Olives, oranges, and other foods underwent similar assimilation, even as Israelis began to incorporate elements from many places—immigrants from Russia, Italy, North Africa, and America. Though invested with many meanings, those foods became unifying symbols. Raviv traces this transformation over the course of more than a century, looking at such matters as the Zionist “homegrown” campaign of the 1920s and the use of the school cafeteria as a vehicle for the development of a national cuisine. The author is particularly good on pressing the point that such cuisines are seldom fixed but instead constantly adapt as new groups enter and as time changes. Naturally, such ideas of variability and contested meanings are couched in the language of postmodernism—e.g., “Because food is disarming, it does not read as a product of high culture”; “I, too, aim to use the concrete evidence of the development of a national cuisine to interrogate the abstraction of nationalism.”

Readers wishing for a little more about food and a little less about nationalism may want to look elsewhere, but Raviv delivers an academic yet mostly accessible work of culinary anthropology.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8032-9017-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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