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Cover of Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation
Rated 4.12
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Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation

By: Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman

Publisher: HarperCollins Trade

Imprint: HarperCollins

Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780062431783

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Electronic | Audio

On Sale: | Pages: 448

  • About the Book
  • Reviews
A groundbreaking collection of essays by celebrated international writers bears witness to the human cost of fifty years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. In Kingdom of Olives and Ash, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, two of today's most renowned novelists and essayists, have teamed up with the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence--an organization comprised of former Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied territories and saw firsthand the injustice there--and a host of illustrious writers to tell the stories of the people on the ground in the contested territories.Kingdom of Olives and Ash includes contributions from several of today's most esteemed storytellers including: Colum McCann, Jacqueline Woodson, Colm Toibin, Geraldine Brooks, Dave Eggers, Hari Kunzru, Raja Shehadeh, Mario Vargas Llosa and Assaf Gavron, as well as from editors Chabon and Waldman. Through these incisive, perceptive, and poignant essays, readers will gain unique insight into the narratives behind the litany of grim destruction broadcasted nightly on the news, as well as deeper understanding of the conflict as experienced by the people who live in the occupied territories. Together, these stories stand witness to the human cost of the occupation.Kingdom of Olives and Ash includes contributions from several of today's most esteemed storytellers including: Colum McCann, Madeleine Thien, Jacqueline Woodson, Colm Toibin, Geraldine Brooks, Dave Eggers, Hari Kunzru, Raja Shehadeh, Mario Vargas Llosa and Assaf Gavron, as well as from editors Chabon and Waldman. Through these incisive, perceptive, and poignant essays, readers will gain unique insight into the narratives behind the litany of grim destruction broadcasted nightly on the news, as well as deeper understanding of the conflict as experienced by the people who live in the occupied territories. Together, these stories stand witness to the human cost of the occupation.
The anthology, edited by Ms. Waldman and Mr. Chabon, who earned his B.A. at the University of Pittsburgh, is at best hit-or-miss.... One self-indulgent essayist after another recounts short and emotional accounts of treks through the Palestinian Territories. The same characters, contractors of Breaking the Silence or activists working with the organization, crop up in multiple stories and lead to doubts about the authenticity of the stories conveyed.... Blame falls upon the anthology's editors for not being ruthless in their direction of both the writers.... Their failure to direct their individual writers to write differently than each other resulted in a disappointing dirge of droning, half-hearted guilt. Yet the problems with this anthology transcend even the oversights of its editors. Many of the writers have fallen into the worst traps of “empathy tourism”... Despite its many pitfalls, “Kingdom of Olives and Ash” should be read widely. It is frustrating that this anthology is one of the only English-speaking literary passports past a checkpoint. Hopefully, new writers read this text, think, “nice first try,” and get on a plane to write smarter, sharper and better stories about the people in the Palestinian Territories.
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
What is this book about? What it's really about is the writers. Most of the essays aren't journalism but a kind of selfie in which the author poses in front of the symbolic moral issue of the time: Here I am at an Israeli checkpoint! Here I am with a shepherd! That's why the very first page of the book finds Chabon and Waldman talking not about the occupation, but about Chabon and Waldman. After a while I felt trapped in a wordy kind of Kardashian Instagram feed, without the self-awareness. Whatever this anthology set out to be, “Kingdom of Olives and Ash” is an unintentional group portrait of a certain set of intellectuals.
—Washington Post
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