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Second Person Singular

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  945 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
Acclaimed novelist Sayed Kashua, the creator of the groundbreaking Israeli sitcom, “Arab Labor,” has been widely praised for his literary eye and deadpan wit. His new novel is considered internationally to be his most accomplished and entertaining work yet.

Winner of the prestigious Bernstein Award, Second Person Singular centers on an ambitious lawyer who is considered one
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by Grove Press (first published 2010)
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Feb 19, 2016 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Wow. A fascinating exploration of Arab identity in Israel (and a very good read too). Reading it, I realized how little I knew about Israel's Arab citizens, and about the frameworks, both legal and cultural, that govern their lives. This isn't a book about ripped from the headlines violence, but rather a book about coexistence in the midst of casual racism and deep seated mistrust, but also cultural envy and material aspiration, as well as the occasional good intentions and actual bonding.

Renita D'Silva
Oct 10, 2014 Renita D'Silva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely adored this book. It was a window into a different world, the real Jerusalem and not the one I see every day in the news, the Jerusalem where Jews and Arabs co-exist, having forged an uneasy truce. I learned so much from this book, without realizing I was doing so. Kashua has a knack of transporting you right into the middle of the action, so I could feel my heart racing while Yonatan's identity was about to be revealed, while the lawyer discovered the note that would change everyth ...more
Jim Leffert
Jun 25, 2012 Jim Leffert rated it really liked it
Sayed Kashua has a great sense of humor but I found his latest novel to be totally humorless and even painful to read, in its tale of two unhappy souls. The main characters are two Israeli Arabs. Each has escaped the stifling, small-minded milieu of a home village in the Triangle near the Green Line in central Israel, to settle in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem these men are outsiders to the Jewish majority, whose culture in many ways they aspire to emulate, and also separate from the West Bankers livi ...more
Feb 16, 2011 K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hebrew
I remember when I saw "Life is Beautiful" in a small movie theater in upstate New York. The film was in Italian with subtitles which I always find a bit distancing, especially when it comes to humorous moments. That didn't stop the audience from laughing uproariously, though, even when some of the jokes seemed a bit lame, and my cynical side wondered how much of the audience's laughter resulted from the actual humor quotient vs. how much of it came from the sense of superiority that might come f ...more
Dov Zeller
Nov 22, 2015 Dov Zeller rated it liked it
I read this a year and a half ago-ish and didn't review it. Something reminded me of it today and I am thinking about it, but don't remember it well enough to write much.

I am pretty sure it's supposed to be a darkly comic social satire, but what I remember most is that I didn't find myself picking up much humor. It was a fascinating exploration of the fluidity and non-essentiality of identity, and a complex snapshot of the lives of two Arab men who have to some degree become cultural exiles and
Aug 04, 2013 Stacia rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, middle-east
Kashua presents a compelling, compassionate yet sometimes chilling, look at identity -- how we see ourselves, how others see us, what others see in us. His is a universal tale, but also unique in its specifics (people & locale). Things are not always as they seem, whether we deceive ourselves or deceive others (or both or neither). Kashua aptly delineates the divides between wanting to stay true to self, yet to change/have what someone else has/grow. His timely commentaries are so fitting in ...more
Jun 17, 2013 Chavi rated it liked it
I wish I'd read this book in Hebrew. I've read articles by the author in Ha'aretz magazine and his writing is humorous and honest.

It would be nice to judge the book purely on its literary merits, but as the author is an Arab Israeli who writes in Hebrew, I couldn't help but pay attention to its politics.

I was pleasantly surprised, because the book is so apolitical. There are no heroes or villains, just characters going about their lives - trying to belong, building relationships, questioning the
Oct 05, 2013 Selim rated it it was amazing
Gripping narrative and some very interesting ideas on Arab-Jewish societies co-existing, forcibly most of the time, and a sharp criticism of each side, in an extremely compelling plot. Kashua skewers almost everything that could ever be criticized: religion, lifestyle, morals, among many others. I read this for a class, and really --really-- liked it -- especially the ending. Relatively easy language, OK translation.
Mathis Bailey
Feb 11, 2015 Mathis Bailey rated it really liked it
What an eye catching cover. Love the visual hidden message, the interesting model and clever title. Nicely done.

Now, this book was thought-provoking on every ground. I've never read a book set in Israel and this book provided a good window into a country that is plagued with strife. There were many times I caught myself reading passages out loud to my spouse whenever I came across something culturally interesting.

This was my first time reading anything by Sayed Kashua, and this isn't going to b
Jun 01, 2013 Merrikay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am SO glad I read this book. It has given me still another perspective that I had not previously been much aware of. I've read a little (very little) about Palestine/Israel relationships, but most of that had been written by people who took a strong stance one way or the other. This novel is written from the perspective of two Palestinians living in Israel not on the West Bank, who seem to be apolitical. One of them is an attorney with resources, the other a social worker with none, which fur ...more
Fascinating novel about identity and the possibility of cultural assimilation. The plot involves two characters, both Arab Israelis who have left their Palestinian villages to pursue a new life in Jerusalem. One is a successful criminal lawyer and the other a social worker turned artist. Their very different lives intersect when the lawyer picks up a copy of The Kreutzer Sonata by Tolstoy in a second hand bookshop. In it he finds a love note written by his wife. He then goes on a relentless purs ...more
Jun 22, 2012 Rawa rated it liked it
Shelves: from-the-library
The cover of this photo caught my eye in the "new arrivals" section at the library, and I picked it up, hoping for an interesting read.
I wanted to like this novel, I really did. I read it within the span of two days, picking it up and setting it down and picking it back up again, hoping that the novel would get better if only I'd continue reading.
The lawyer was incredibly agitating. His complete overreaction at such a simple note written by his wife felt extremely unrealistic. His violent though
Mar 28, 2013 TinHouseBooks rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-love
Meg Storey (Editor, Tin House Books): Stay with me here; this is going to get a little complicated: A successful Arab Israeli lawyer who lives and works in Jerusalem and who considers himself somewhat of an intellectual buys a used copy of Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata, out of which falls a love note in his wife’s handwriting that is not for him. An Arab Israeli social worker becomes the caretaker for a paralyzed Jewish man who had been a photography student and the caretaker slowly assumes this ...more
Derek Holodak
Jul 08, 2012 Derek Holodak rated it it was amazing
Very reminiscent of early-20th century African American literature. (Nella Larson's Passing comes to mind for obvious reasons, as does Richard Wright's Native Son.) By weaving two narratives into one multifaceted story, Kashua is able to deftly portray the complexities of living as an Arab-Israeli. Second Person Singular will likely find a place of prominence in future minority literature classes.
Just re-read this in preparation for the Etz Chaim Book Club on Tues. and I'm changing my rating from 4 to 5 stars. Can't wait to discuss it! Also watched a few episodes of Arab Labor on DVD (written by Kashua) - funny and fascinating.
Sep 04, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-fiction
Oy. I knew this one would be a tough one for me, given the location and situation, and my own strong attachment. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to see Israel and her citizens from a very different angle than my usual.

The translation kept up the flow of the narrative quite well, and Kashua did a lot of interesting things with building up characters and relationships. I learned a lot about the well-to-do Israeli-Arabs in Jerusalem, their social pursuits and self-motivated need for flashy
Bonnie Brody
Apr 30, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it liked it
Second Person Singular is a very interesting novel that follows two story lines.

The first plot line is about an Israeli lawyer of Arab descent whose first name we never know. He is a socially and economically competitive man who holds ‘salons’ at his house with other Israeli Arabs who he feels come up to his level of distinction. He feels that he must show the Jewish Israelis that he has succeeded and this needs to be done, for the most part, materialistically. He drives a Mercedes and lives in
Mar 27, 2016 Ярослава rated it it was amazing
Shelves: litfic
Ця книжка належить до найпоширенішого літературного жанру - до романів про кризу середнього віку в мужика-мудака; до жанру в мене нема жодного тепла, але ж усе стає кращим, якщо приперчити це розповіддю про маргіналізовані історичні наративи й етнічні ідентичності, фоновими терактами і спірним культурним спадком, ви ж розумієте.
Саєд Кашуа - ізраїльський письменник палестинського походження, що вибрав іврит (а не рідну арабську) як свою робочу мову, і досліджує непевні мілини й рифи цієї погранич
Apr 02, 2014 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this thriller/mystery (I don't think that's necessarily the right description) set in Jerusalem. It features two young Arab men living in Israeli Jerusalem, one a successful Criminal lawyer with a beautiful Social worker wife, two children, big car and thriving practise but a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his lack of wide ranging artistic education. The other is Amir a Social worker who is exceptionally socially shy and gets a second job looking after at night a young Jewi ...more
Aug 29, 2010 Anat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read, Sayed's observations on the political-personal and the cultural reality in Israel are very sharp and insightful and are the book's added value. For example; one of the two protagonists is a lawyer, he represents Palestinians arrested by the Israeli security forces. He knows they are guilty and will be put in prison-his main concern is getting them put away on a charge with "no blood on their hands" so that in the next round of prisoner swaps they will be eligible. This absurdity rin ...more
Jul 21, 2014 Crisadmaiora rated it it was amazing
Probably the most interesting and most compelling novel I have read this year. Sayed Kashua is an Arab Israeli author who writes in Hebraic. And while we hear and see lots of news on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict what do we really know about the every-day life of people on those territories?
This novel features a very thrilling plot mixed with many details of what it means to be an Arab in Israel. And you understand how hellish it must be to cope with a religious identity for the rest of your
Kim Olson
Feb 12, 2013 Kim Olson rated it liked it
This novel tells the stories of two Arab Israeli men living in Jerusalem, one a status-conscious attorney who suspects his wife of cheating on him, the other a struggling social worker. As the main characters straddle two cultures, the book deftly sheds light on issues of personal identity, assimilation, the meaning of leaving village life behind, and even a bit of gender politics.

The book does a great job of revealing the complex challenges faced by Arabs Israelis. And the plotlines, which even
Nov 25, 2015 Arlo rated it really liked it
Two stories that eventually intersect. One is told in the third person the other the third. Both characters are Israeli Arabs that are attempting to assimilate in Israeli culture and raise their social status in a culture that does not completely accept them.
The story in the third person is nameless and rising in society via education, job as a lawyer, car, office location, books he reads etc. When he discovers or believes his wife may be cheating on him he begins to regress to his roots. Arab c
Dec 26, 2015 Natasha rated it it was amazing
This book is about Arabs that live in Israel and that are caught between the conflict, their day to day struggles and their weltanschauung.
I love how it gives a peek into the life of an Arab-Israeli, how a person feels and thinks when living in another country, and how assimilation feels and is thought of.
Essentially it tries to describe how a person can have more than one identity and be comfortable with it, live both fully and be true to them both. What needs to be discovered is if such people
Claire McAlpine
Apr 05, 2012 Claire McAlpine rated it liked it
Interesting and thought provoking read, one that almost requires a good discussion before it can said to be completed. So many layers and motives unexplored leaving much to the readers imagination, except it may not be the imagination, it highlights our limited understanding of the subtleties of identity in this land of Christians/Jews/Muslims/Arabs/Arab-Israeli's/Israeli's/Palestinians and more...
Dec 24, 2013 Merrily rated it really liked it
Having never read anything by Kashua before, I was swept up by his characters and his theme. The Israeli Arab is "the other," the "You" of the title, fitting in with neither Israeli Jews, and no longer with the village Arabs and their outlook. the nameless lawyer, struggling to stay on top as the most successful Arab lawyer in town and Amir, the social worker/artist struggling to find his identity & work are two different aspects of the same character. Powerful.
Khulud Khamis
Mar 08, 2013 Khulud Khamis rated it really liked it
goes deep into issues of identity and the ease with which we can move between identities, even in a conflict zone. Reminds me of the "Human Stain".
Dec 21, 2012 Susana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ridiculous plot....looked interesting and funny at the beginning though...Then I just couldn't stand it...Thank God I have finished it.
Alor Deng
Dec 03, 2016 Alor Deng rated it really liked it
Shelves: israeli
funny and original
Oct 16, 2016 Jean rated it liked it
Reading other's reviews on this book greatly added to my appreciation of this story's subject matter, that of Arabs residing in Jerusalem and the sometimes not so subtle nuances of peaceful coexistence .

All this depicted within a storyline following the hubris of the two male main characters from the milieu of workplace and personal relationships
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What a thought-provoking read. 1 3 Feb 08, 2015 11:01AM  
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Sayed Kashua (Arabic: سيد قشوع, Hebrew: סייד קשוע; b. 1975) is an Israeli-Arab author and journalist born in Tira, Israel, known for his books and humoristic columns in Hebrew.

هو كاتب وصحفي فلسطيني إسرائيلي يعيش في القدس ويكتب بالعبرية. ولد سيد قشوع في مدينة الطيرة، مدينة عربية وسط إسرائيل، لأب يعمل موظفا في البنك ولأم تعمل معلمة. هو الثاني من بين أربعة أبناء. حين كان في ال15 من عمره تم قبوله لمدر
More about Sayed Kashua - سيد قشوع‎...

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“Nor did she believe in identity, certainly not the local nationalistic version of it. She said that man was only smart if he was able to shed his identity.

"Skin color is a little hard to shed," she said, "it's true. But the DNA of your social class is even harder to get rid of.”
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