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Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  462 ratings  ·  101 reviews
For much of her life—like many Westerners—most of what Pamela Olson knew of the Middle East was informed by headlines and stereotypes. But when she traveled to Palestine in 2003, she found herself thrown with dizzying speed into the realities of Palestinian life.

Fast Times in Palestine is Olson’s powerful, deeply moving account of life in Palestine—both the daily events th
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Seal Press (first published May 1st 2011)
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Pamela Olson I'm the author, and I can tell you that while the book certainly isn't balanced (as you can probably tell from the title), it does strive to be fair…moreI'm the author, and I can tell you that while the book certainly isn't balanced (as you can probably tell from the title), it does strive to be fair and accurate. There are 100 or so footnotes from mostly Israeli or respected Western sources so that people can check for themselves if the stories and stats in the book are true. The first major character in the book is an Israeli, and there are visits to Israel in the book, but of course most of the action takes place in the West Bank, where I lived.

This book is not meant to be a complete source on the conflict, but it is meant to show what life is like on the "other side" -- the Palestinian areas that are so often demonized or sensationalized on the news so that people in American (and even Israel) often get a very biased notion indeed of what life is like for Palestinians.

I certainly don't wish to offend anyone, but there are some tough realities mentioned, and if people don't want to know about those realities (or flat-out don't believe them), it may come across as offensive to them. All I can say is, I either saw the things in the book with my own eyes or checked Israeli and Western sources (because skeptical readers would probably not believe Arab sources) to confirm things I heard or read about.

I would encourage people to read the book with an open mind, check the footnotes, read other books and sources as well, and come to their own conclusions.

Thanks for your question and all my best.(less)

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I've been reading Fast Times in Palestine all last month along with Mourid Barghouti's I saw Ramallah, which has been a most beneficial plan, as both books are memoirs mainly revolving around Palestine's social and commercial center: Ramallah. In Barghouti's poetic, hearty depiction of his long-denied hometown, on his first visit after years of cruel estrangement, I could feel the beating heart of the city, the longing, the waiting and that overwhelming feeling the author felt when he was forced ...more
I think it’s important to be aware of what this book is and what this book is not.

This book is a memoir, one which frequently veers into polemic. Pamela Olson decided to backpack in the Middle East after college. She ended up in a Palestinian town called Jayyous. She was warmly embraced by several Jayyous residents and inspired to return later on, this time to Ramallah, to volunteer and advocate for the Palestinian cause. A large part of this book is basically “Eat Pray Love” set in Palestine. I
I finished this book a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to let it all settle and sink in before I reviewed it and gave it a rating. As you can see, I gave it 5-stars. I probably would have given it 4-stars, but I had the opportunity to discuss the book with the author in an on-line discussion thread and that is definitely worth an additional star :-)

As for the book, it is a moving and compelling story of Pamela's experiences in the West Bank. I felt like I could really relate to her reactions.
I met the author at BEA, and her memoir is fascinating. An unexpected, unlikely love letter to Palestine. It will invite comparisons to Eat, Pray, Love, I imagine. But Fast Times in Palestine is funnier, more interesting, and more levelheaded in a way I appreciate.
One evening I was browsing the Top 100 List of Kindle books on Amazon, and this book was included with the free books in that list. It seemed interesting, so I chose it. My hope was that it would be a travel log of sorts with interesting tales of the people living in the Middle East. It delivered.

The travel log aspects of the book were very interesting. The author does a nice job of describing the sites and scenery. Her stories of the people she met while traveling to see the sites - some typica
Alexander McNabb
I nearly did a Dorothy Parker with this book and I'm very glad I didn't. It starts with callow tourist Pamela 'doing' the Middle East and the silly Yank Abroad act nearly did for me. I persevered and it turns out that Pamela Olson was using her own initial inexperience to draw us in and take us by the hand on her journey of discovery through Palestine as she becomes embroiled in Palestinian political campaigning.

This is a wonderful book. It is human, well-written, appalled, compassionate, questi
Holly S. Warah
I've spent a lot of time in Palestine & I've read a lot of books on the topic. I wondered if this book had something new to offer... Turns out it did. I found Fast Times in Palestine to be authetic, funny, tragic and well-documented. Most of all, it was readable. Sometimes it's hard to swallow all the tradegies of the West Bank & Gaza. However, this book kept me turning pages on the kindle. I recommend it to anyone interested in Palestine or travel memoir.
I started out skeptically because the author went to Palestine not knowing anything, and I thought, Okay, three years ago you knew nothing and now you're a best-selling author on an issue I've worked on for half my life. And probably getting better known than fabulous Palestinian memoirists like Ghada Karmi and Raja Shehadeh.

But once I started reading it -- which I did because Seal Press sent it to me and suggested I interview Pamela, which I did on Monday's show -- I found it really fun and poi
This wasn't what I was expecting. When I purchased it, I didn't read the description closely enough and thought I was getting a novel. When I sat down to read it and realized my mistake, I decided to give it a chance anyway and I am so glad I did. I was hooked right away. It's a memoir that reads like a novel. I could vividly picture the land she was seeing and the people she was talking to....and the horrors she was experiencing. This was so eye opening. It put a face to the crimes of humanity ...more
Ghada Arafat
A must read to anyone who wants to know about the daily life in Palestine and the general political situation. A brave, true, and heart taking book.
Sam Sattler
In a lot of ways, Pamela Olson's Fast Times in Palestine is an eye-opener. No doubt about it. The stories she tells about the wonderful people she met and the beautiful experiences she had there are unarguably heartwarming - and heartbreaking. They are similar to what I experienced during my years in Algeria. Olson's memoir further proves to me that, given half a chance, people are capable of forming lasting friendships and bonds so long as they are willing to see each other as fellow human bein ...more
Sacramento Public Library
Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland by Pamela J. Olson is a gut-wrenching, intimate true recounting of the almost accidental arrival of Pamela in Palestine with eye-opening accounts of daily life for her and the friends she makes. These include Israelis and Arabs. She falls in love with one Palestinian whose family life is almost wrecked by the wall Israel erects that separates their olive orchard (and economic sustenance) from their home. Pamela is faced with very di ...more
Paddy O'callaghan

Pamela Olson's memoir of the time she spent living in Palestine is absolutely essential reading as both a travelogue and an account of the lives people in the occupied Palestinian territories are leading. It is very even-handed in it's treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and, although entirely unpretentious and very accessible, beautifully written. It is sure to be enjoyed by all, especially fans Michelle Cohen Corasanti's The Almond Tree.
I lived in Ramallah for 4 years in the time just before Pamela got there. The book is a classic recounting of what it's like to travel to Palestine and live there as a foreigner, as the Israeli military occupation slowly reveals itself to you. This book is amazing on many levels.
An extraordinary memoir of the author's time in Palestine, which reads like a part-diary, part-history, part-political, part- travel survival guide. Like many in the West, I've been largely oblivious to the horrors of what goes on in the 'Occupied Territories' and this book tells it like it is, warts and all. To live under such oppression and violence is unimaginable for me, but this book illustrates it quite clearly in a way that anyone can relate and understand to some degree. Fast Times In Pa ...more
I received this book from the GoodReads FirstReads GiveAway. I really enjoyed this book, although it does cover a tough and hard to take topic. Olson tells the story of her time volunteering and working in Palestine, her time in cities and villages, at holy sites, harvesting olives, working on a political campaign, getting through checkpoints, talking with people from all sides. For me it really helped put in perspective how awful the situation there truly is (the book is well footnoted, if you ...more
This book should become mandatory reading in every high school in The United States! I've always found it unfathomable that Americans are so fundamentally unable to see the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through any lens other than the one that sanctifies Israel and categorically vilifies Palestine and her people. Pam Olson does a wonderful job of humanizing a people that our media has dehumanized to the point of caricature. There are two sides to every story. This is the Palestinian story.

The ma
What an eye-opener. I kept wondering what would change in our current foreign policy if every lawmaker would read Fast Times in Palestine. I've read quite a few books about "the situation" and have traveled in Israel twice, but didn't quite get my thinking straight until reading this. My acceptance of the way it is has been tested. We are the country supplying the funds for what is happening to the Palestinians. Ultimately we are responsible for allowing 600 year old olive trees being callously ...more
Kevin Pedersen
It's not the final word in the story of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but it shows a side of the story that doesn't get told a whole lot, especially in America. While the root causes of the tension can be debated for years (has anyone ever debated that before?) this focuses on the smaller, human cost of an occupation -- the people stopped at a checkpoint who can't get to a wedding, the pregnant women afraid to cross a border to get to a hospital, the movie nights cancelled because a projector looke ...more
Carmel Mawle
Pamela J. Olson’s Fast Times in Palestine recounts her extraordinary personal journey of political and social awakening. Raised in Oklahoma, Olson graduated from Stanford with a degree in physics and, with no distinct plan for the rest of her life, resolved to spend a year tending bar. Her curiosity is piqued by the onset and questionable narrative of the Iraq War and a Lebanese friend’s contrasting stories of beautiful beaches and the metropolitan city of Beirut, so she determines to learn Arab ...more
"One of the biggest threats to peace all over the world is how people get so identified with the stories in their heads, they become unwilling or unable to deal with reality as it actually occurs." I've read a lot of articles and books, but I thought this line from the book captured the peace process, conflict - call it what you will - in the Middle East really nicely.

Living in the US, I recognize that I am probably exposed to heavily Israeli-leaning media angles and this book is definitely sym
This book was a real eye opener for me. This is Pamela Olsens personal account of her time in Palestine. The book gives a voice and humanity to the Palestinians without being political. It also gives you a lot a background about the area itself. It is a perfect book for those who want to learn more about the Palestine people and their plight, which is seldom heard in mainstream media.
This book surprised me. At first I thought the author was some tree-hugging liberal loon, but throughout the book she showed a rational mind, and wrote an interesting story about life in Palestine. I'll credit this book for changing my stance on the entire Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is a really different story from the view looking from behind the Security fence.
Mary Merritt
I'm always seeking to read about other cultures through stories written by the people who have an unique perspective. I came across this chronicle by accident and was pleased to see the events in the Middle East interpreted by an American who experienced them. This book educated me about the Palestinian people and their struggles. One of the most eye-opening passages in the book was when the author told people she was from Oklahoma and they all felt sorry for her because she came from a place wi ...more
Tom Milton
An eye opener. I recommend it to everyone who would like to understand what's happening in that part of the world.
Jamie Belt
Excellent book from an underused perspective.
Wow, just wow. I need to gather my thoughts before I can even contemplate writing a review to do this book justice.

Review originally posted at

Over the years I've read quite a few books about Israel and Palestine, but this one is unlike anything I've ever read before. I knew that this book was about someone's personal account of life in Palestine, but I had no idea that Olson hadn't specifically intended to go to Palestine. She went backpacking in th
This book is a nonfiction memoir of Olson’s two year stint in Palestine. Sometimes funny and often gripping, this is a moving book of the life that we don’t know. Olson paints a vivid picture of the countryside and the way of life that Palestinians must endure. She shares with her readers the incredible adventure within the confines of this war torn country. There are not many people who would have her courage and strength, especially a woman to live in Palestine and experience the wonder and aw ...more
Pamela Olson ends up in Palestine while touring the region. She is so captured by the struggle of the Palestinian people that she returns to live and work in Ramallah, where she stays for two years and reports about the atrocities of the conflict with Israel.
I felt a kinship with Olson's unexpected engagement in a complicated social-political region, as I have fallen in love and gone to live in a country under similar circumstances. Unfortunately, I still felt resounding confusion about the conf
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I grew up in small-town Oklahoma and studied physics and political science at Stanford University, class of 2002.

I lived in Ramallah for two years, during which I served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s 2005 presidential campaign.

In January of 2006, I moved to Washington, DC and worked at a Defense Department think ta
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