Somewhere in Between the World and Me, Ta-Nahesi Coates makes the excellent point that we have to stop thinking of slavery as an issue. He reminds us that people were involved, human beings with likes, dislikes, moods, passions, etc.. It seems, now, like such a simple thing, but I definitely needed the reminder. And it would be wrong to say that this just happens to people whose identities have been obscured by the passage of time.
As someone who tries to pay attention to the Middle East, I was intrigued by this book. Before I started reading it, I knew Palestine as an issue, but I know very few Palestinians and very few Palestinian stories. And here they are. These are detailed and honest narratives of displacement, of violence, of the diaspora, of Palestinian experiences, particularly – and I know I have to be careful with my words here – since the creation of Israel.
And they are heart-wrenching stories. They are first person narratives, and I have no reason to question them. Occasionally, as a Jew, I felt myself getting defensive and longing for the same story told from an Israeli perspective. Then I remembered that thanks to the US’ alliance with Israel, the narrative we get is frequently dominated by the Israeli perspective. I may investigate Side by Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine (Sami Adwan, ed.) for that experience.
So if you want to humanize the Israel-Palestine issues, you should read this. There’s an attempt made to include a teacher’s guide, but it’s not that worthwhile. And I would gladly have traded in the ‘Art and Culture’ section in exchange for more narratives. Overall, though, this book is both powerful and necessary.
Charles Ellenbogen is the author of the teaching memoir, THIS ISN’T THE MOVIES: 25 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM, and teaches high school English in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio with Kirsten, his wife, Zoe, their daughter, Ezra, their son, Lincoln, their dog, and Chocolate Scales, their snake.