This is not the best novel I've ever read, but it was definitely entertaining. The cross-cultural aspects of the story, in which an American tries to...moreThis is not the best novel I've ever read, but it was definitely entertaining. The cross-cultural aspects of the story, in which an American tries to marry into a Tamil Brahmin family in Chennai, are quite realistically portrayed. I like the way that Tirumurti, although writing in English, didn't necessarily intend a non-Indian audience given all of the Tamil words and concepts embedded into the narrative. One definitely needs some insight into the specificity of the language and culture in order to get the gist of the story.(less)
This is a fun read. It's a clever graphic novel with a nice conceit: Tina, the protagonist and narrator, writes this book as a journal for her high-sc...moreThis is a fun read. It's a clever graphic novel with a nice conceit: Tina, the protagonist and narrator, writes this book as a journal for her high-school philosophy class. Her audience is Jean Paul Sartre. Generally it is a somewhat typical coming of age story, but the drawings and her perspective are refreshing.(less)
Schulman's book about Palestine and Israel is a really important work for Americans to read, especially those who call themselves "liberal" (who are u...moreSchulman's book about Palestine and Israel is a really important work for Americans to read, especially those who call themselves "liberal" (who are usually so on every issue except for Palestine). Schulman takes readers through her own personal journey to come to terms with how much she didn't know. The candor with which she shares her own progress with readers is quite moving and powerful. For example, during the 2008-2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza, she tells readers about the difference between this protest and previous demonstrations she attended:
"This time, though, demonstrations against Israeli attacks on Gaza were very difficult. They took place at the Israeli embassy. The problem was not the rabid, screaming nationalist Jews across the street. It was, rather, the signs carried by some of my fellow protesters. It was here that I sussed out my new layers of discomfort, dominance, and positionality. The first had to do with Hamas. I considered the current Israeli government and Hamas to both be craven, and by being in demonstrations with pro-Hamas signs, I felt compromised. I talked this over with my few like-minded Jewish friends and finally had to face facts. The first truth was that I did not know or understand enough about Hamas outside of what was fed me on American television to evaluate intelligently. I certainly did not know what Hamas meant to Palestinian people. Second, I realized that I have spent my life marching in coalition with people I profoundly disagreed with, even people who opposed my basic existence. I have marched in the same gay pride parade with gay Republicans for decades, and I once marched with Hasidic and Orthodox Jews in Brussels when a synagogue was bombed, even though I knew that they opposed my freedom and existence as a lesbian. I have been in antiwar demonstrations with Catholics who actively fight against abortion rights, which I consider to be essential to female autonomy. So the only reason that sharing a common outrage with Hamas at the killings in Gaza disturbed me more than all the other religious fundamentalists I had had some moment of common ground with in the past was my own prejudice. Once that conceptual gap was faced, I examined the specifics. Hamas was democratically elected. It doesn't matter what I think about Hamas. What matters is that my country, the United States of America, is providing military aid to Israel, who in my name is committing war crimes. So, consistent with my lifetime of work for justice, my responsibility regarding Israel is to speak out against what is being done in my name with my tax money. Period. It's not always so clean, these decisions, but they still need to be faced" (28-29).
This type of self-reflection is something Schulman engages in throughout the book. There are some concerns I have with the way she approaches Palestine much of the time, but it is something that I and many others, I suspect, do and that is to first solicit the opinions and advice of our Jewish friends whom we trust. Of course, I know now how problematic that was as does Schulman and she reveals that as her story moves forward. It's uncomfortable to read now and reflect on my own process, but I salute her for sharing it with the public. For this reason I think it is important for others to read and learn from this work, perhaps especially Jewish Americans.
There is a similar thread in this book about queer identity. A lot of the build up of the book is to show how she came around to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and also how she got involved with exposing Israel's pinkwashing campaigns (see her New York Times article on the subject and the Mondoweiss one detailing how many edits she endured). But I was a bit disappointed that Schulman wanted reciprocity from Palestinians on supporting queer rights before she even went and explored Palestine on her own. I understand and think that reciprocity is crucial, but for me I seek it out only after I've been engaged with people in a struggle. I don't enter into solidarity work expecting my other issues to automatically be supported by those I work with.
Other than those minor complaints, I think that the book is beautifully written, engaging, and an essential read for Americans and Westerners looking to understand the situation in Palestine more fully. (less)