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

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

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by Pamela J. Olson
     
 

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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

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Overview


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 that are universal to us all (house parties, concerts, barbecues, and weddings) as well as the violence, trauma, and political tensions that are particular to the country. From idyllic olive groves to Palestinian beer gardens, from Passover in Tel Aviv to Ramadan in a Hamas village, readers will find Olson’s narrative both suspenseful and discerning. Her irresistible story offers a multi-faceted understanding of the Palestinian perspective on the Israel–Palestine conflict, filling a gap in the West’s understanding of the difficult relationship between the two nations.

At turns funny, shocking, and galvanizing, Fast Times in Palestine is a gripping narrative that challenges our ways of thinking—not only about the Middle East, but about human nature, cultural identity, and our place in the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Olson didn't come to the Middle East from Eastern Oklahoma directly-she earned a degree from Stanford first-but she still had little world experience when, "green and wide-eyed, she wandered into the Holy Land, an empty vessel." Her innocence, if partly an affectation, helps her navigate the surreal and morally ambiguous rules of the Occupied Territories with relish and warmth for the people she meets. As she travels throughout Israel and Palestine, she adopts as her own the travails and daily rhythms of her hosts. The political and ethical conclusions she draws are sometimes prosaic, but her emotional response to the unending conflict and subsequent difficulties is genuine. More than a travelogue or a polemic, the book is a coming-of-age story, as Olson discovers her voice by directly confronting the challenges of living in a state of institutionalized paradox. She finds a place for herself in Palestinian society, becoming an advisor to Mustafa Barghouthi, the long shot presidential candidate. Engaging and easy to read, this is a fascinating memoir of adaptation and acculturation, and of the unexpected bonds connecting disparate cultures.
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From the Publisher

"Pamela Olson's insightful, sometimes shocking, but always deeply human account of the Palestinian reality should be read by anyone who wants to get beyond the myths and misconceptions around the Palestinian struggle. The effortless narrative is driven by encounters with ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, people sometimes as confused as the rest of the world about their reality. But Olson is clear in laying out the stark truth of dispossession, oppression, and outright racism imposed on the Palestinians—insights all too lacking in news reports and political debate."
Chris McGreal, The Guardian

"A moving, inspiring account of life in Palestine that's enormously informative yet reads like a novel!"
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace

"It's love in the time of occupation as Pamela Olson . . . takes us on the emotional roller-coaster of her very personal experience of life in Ramallah. . . A charming book brimming with tension and tragedy, but also with the humor, warmth, everyday foibles and irrepressible hopes of a people determined to live free."
Tony Karon, senior editor of TIME Magazine

"Part adventure story, part searing reportage, part love story, and wholly absorbing."
Dr. Kenneth Ring, co-author of Letters from Palestine

"Pamela Olson leads the reader on an exciting, funny, at times heart-wrenching journey, carefully deciphering complex political and historical issues. Olson is a talented writer, intelligent and exceptional in her ability to convey both tragedy and hope, remaining morally grounded and refreshingly honest."
Ramzy Baroud, author of My Father was a Freedom Fighter

"As an Israeli whose life was shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I found Fast Times in Palestine moving and refreshing. Pamela Olson comes to the Middle East with a blank slate and is therefore able to hold up an undistorted mirror to the reality she encounters."
Miko Peled, author of The General's Son

"Harrowing, funny, vivid, entertaining and deeply humane, Fast Times in Palestine opens a rare window into Palestinian life. It’s impossible not to be moved on nearly every page by Pamela Olson’s account of the plight of a stateless people struggling to live with dignity under a mind-boggling 48-year military occupation. Yet Olson also shows us the warmth of a people who, despite their circumstances, display a 'preternatural friendliness and curiosity' in an 'enviable place to call home.' Read this book; it will change everything about the way you see the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians."
Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree

"This is a story by a very smart and fundamentally decent woman who visits Palestine for the first time knowing little about what she will encounter there. Of course, she learns quickly about the horrors of the Israeli occupation and what it means for the local Palestinians. Fast Times in Palestine is Pamela Olson's attempt to describe the indignities and brutality of Palestinian daily life, and try to make sense of it all. What makes her story so compelling is that she tells it in an honest and straightforward way, not by relying on hot rhetoric. For anyone who wants to learn the truth about life under Israeli occupation, this book is a superb starting point."
John J. Mearsheimer, author of Why Leaders Lie

“…the strength of the narrative lies in Olson’s investigation of the personal and mental effects of oppression and war on herself and her newfound friends…Where paradox is as common as breathing, Olson discovers a kind of freedom amid the barbed wire. An empathetic, intriguing memoir.”—Kirkus Reviews

"More than a travelogue or a polemic, the book is a coming-of-age story, as Olson discovers her voice by directly confronting the challenges of living in a state of institutionalized paradox... Engaging and easy to read, this is a fascinating memoir."—Publishers Weekly

"An ultimately heartwarming story about an American who learned to love a country and a people despite the trauma of the brutal, decades-old conflict she witnesses occurring around her."—Library Journal

Library Journal
When journalist Olson first came to the Middle East in 2003, she was your typical American tourist: unsure of herself, unaware of what was going on around her, and without much sense of the ancient region’s history, cultures, or languages. What she found while traveling and eventually working for the Palestine Monitor and as the foreign press coordinator for Palestinian presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouthi’s campaign in Ramallah over two years was heartbreaking. She had learned something of the Palestinian perspective in the Israel-Palestine conflict—a perspective that most Americans are unaware of or unwilling to hear. Olson herself never seems to lose her American naiveté over how bad the political situation and violence are or how those she meets—including Muslims, Jews, Christians, communists, politicians, and soldiers—seem to accept the violence, death, and unfairness while embracing family, life, and hope in order to survive living in a war zone.

Verdict An ultimately heartwarming story about an American who learned to love a country and a people despite the trauma of the brutal, decades-old conflict she witnesses occurring around her.—Melissa Aho, Univ. of Minnesota Bio-Medical Lib., Minneapolis
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
A moving memoir of a young woman's political awakening under occupation. Having lived an unusually sheltered life even by American standards, Olson was dangerously naïve when she first arrived in Jordan. Curious about what the situation was really like, beyond the confusing headlines, and attracted by the "chance to witness history as it was being made," she nearly chartered a taxi to Baghdad before she was convinced to head to the West Bank instead. A fortuitous decision, this unplanned voyage led the author to connect with a diverse and generous group of individuals navigating the daily challenges of security patrols and checkpoints. Spending much of her time in Jayyous, a small farming community not entirely dissimilar to the Oklahoma town where she grew up, Olson lived in Palestine for more than two years, quickly adapting to and assimilating the shifting reality on both sides of the Green Line. In warmhearted, evocative prose, she recounts her numerous adventures, from the everyday (harvesting olives, attending weddings) to the more unusual (her work as an adviser to Mustafa Barghouthi as he ran for president of a nonexistent country). She never entirely lost her air of the ingénue, and her political analysis is sometimes debatable, but the strength of the narrative lies in Olson's investigation of the personal and mental effects of oppression and war on herself and her newfound friends, "the atmosphere of mute shock expressed only in sidelong glances…of knowing something few people knew, and of genuine connection and collective struggle." Where paradox is as common as breathing, Olson discovers a kind of freedom amid the barbed wire. An empathetic, intriguing memoir.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781580054829
Publisher:
Avalon Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/12/2013
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
581,133
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

"Pamela Olson's insightful, sometimes shocking, but always deeply human account of the Palestinian reality should be read by anyone who wants to get beyond the myths and misconceptions around the Palestinian struggle. The effortless narrative is driven by encounters with ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, people sometimes as confused as the rest of the world about their reality. But Olson is clear in laying out the stark truth of dispossession, oppression, and outright racism imposed on the Palestinians—insights all too lacking in news reports and political debate." —Chris McGreal, The Guardian

"A moving, inspiring account of life in Palestine that's enormously informative yet reads like a novel!" —Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace

"It's love in the time of occupation as Pamela Olson . . . takes us on the emotional roller-coaster of her very personal experience of life in Ramallah. . . A charming book brimming with tension and tragedy, but also with the humor, warmth, everyday foibles and irrepressible hopes of a people determined to live free." —Tony Karon, senior editor of TIME Magazine

"Part adventure story, part searing reportage, part love story, and wholly absorbing." —Dr. Kenneth Ring, co-author of Letters from Palestine

"Pamela Olson leads the reader on an exciting, funny, at times heart-wrenching journey, carefully deciphering complex political and historical issues. Olson is a talented writer, intelligent and exceptional in her ability to convey both tragedy and hope, remaining morally grounded and refreshingly honest." —Ramzy Baroud, author of My Father was a Freedom Fighter

"As an Israeli whose life was shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I found Fast Times in Palestine moving and refreshing. Pamela Olson comes to the Middle East with a blank slate and is therefore able to hold up an undistorted mirror to the reality she encounters." —Miko Peled, author of The General's Son

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