Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation edited by by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman [in Library Journal]
“We didn’t want to edit this book,” married Jewish authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman confess. “We didn’t want to write or even think…about Israel and Palestine, about the nature and meaning of occupation.” But Waldman’s 2014 visit to her birthplace forced both to “pay attention.” With the occupation’s 50th anniversary this year, the pair asked international literary luminaries to bear witness: “What they saw is what they wrote is what you’ll read” (fact-checkers fastidiously confirmed veracity).
For listening audiences, Gabra Zackman and Fred Sanders are fitting guides, gauging detachment and urgency, despair and determination. Jacqueline Woodson considers “the crime of a nation, of many nations, refusing to see people…as people.” Lars Saabye Christensen insists, “No one has the right to do wrong.” Mario Vargas Llosa notes, “Israel has lost the prestige and honor it once had…the number of its opponents and critics is…growing by the day.” Taiye Selasi considers Mahmoud Darwish’s Israeli Jewish lover Rita, of “activists whose revolutionary politics do not dictate or delimit their emotional attachments.” Arnon Grunberg dares repeat, “without the Nazis, would there have been a state of Israel?”
Verdict: Brutal, revealing, affecting, Kingdom is essential testimony, whether written or aural.