Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me

Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me

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by Harvey Pekar, JT Waldman
     
 

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Harvey Pekar's mother was a Zionist by way of politics. His father was a Zionist by way of faith. Whether Harvey was going to daily Hebrew classes or attending Zionist picnics, he grew up a staunch supporter of the Jewish state. But soon he found himself questioning the very beliefs and ideals of his parents.

In Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, the

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Overview

Harvey Pekar's mother was a Zionist by way of politics. His father was a Zionist by way of faith. Whether Harvey was going to daily Hebrew classes or attending Zionist picnics, he grew up a staunch supporter of the Jewish state. But soon he found himself questioning the very beliefs and ideals of his parents.

In Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, the final graphic memoir from the man who defined the genre, Pekar explores what it means to be Jewish and what Israel means to the Jews. Over the course of a single day in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, Pekar and the illustrator JT Waldman wrestle with the mythologies and realities surrounding the Jewish homeland. Pekar interweaves his increasing disillusionment with the modern state of Israel with a comprehensive history of the Jewish people from biblical times to the present, and the result is a personal and historical odyssey of uncommon power. Plainspoken and empathetic, Pekar had no patience for injustice and prejudice in any form, and though he comes to understand the roots of his parents' unquestioning love for Israel, he arrives at the firm belief that all peoples should be held to the same universal standards of decency, fairness, and democracy.

With an epilogue written by Joyce Brabner, Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me is an essential book for fans of Harvey Pekar and anyone interested in the past and future of the Jewish state. It is bound to create important discussions and debates for years to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Instead of the single-minded polemic that the title promises, this posthumous work by Pekar functions as a multipronged exploration of religious, political, and personal histories and is all the richer for it. Pekar structures his narrative as a long-running bull session with his collaborator, artist Waldman (Megillat Esther), as they amble around Pekar’s hometown of Cleveland. While walking through a cavernous used bookstore or grabbing food at an Italian grocery, they explore his parents’ very passionate but unusual Zionism (Pekar’s mother was a stridently nonworshipping Marxist while his father was highly religious), the history of the Jewish people and the creation of the state of Israel, and Pekar’s own evolving feelings about that country. Starting off as an unalloyed champion of the new Jewish homeland (he was a schoolboy during the War of Independence and grew up along with the young country), Pekar later becomes troubled by the growth of religious fundamentalism in Israel, West Bank settlements, and what he saw as destructive military policies. A sweet and simple epilogue by Pekar’s widow, Joyce Brabner, provides the perfect capstone, noting how she planned a funeral that was properly Jewish and yet appropriately nonreligious. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
This posthumous publication reflects the seminal graphic memoirist at his edgy best. From the grave, the pugnacious Pekar (Huntington, West Virginia "On the Fly," 2011) is still issuing challenges and picking fights. But the handsome hardback publication and the masterful illustration by Waldman (Megillat Esther, 2006) confer a respectful legitimacy that shows how far the genre Pekar helped spawn has advanced since his early comic-book narratives. The tone is quintessential Pekar, pulling no punches, while the focus extends beyond the purely personal to the history of the Jewish people and the formation and essence of Israel. Both of his parents were ardent Zionists, but the author was not. The story begins with a visit by the narrator and the artist to a huge used bookstore in his native Cleveland and ends with them doing more library research. In between, it encompasses centuries and continents against a backdrop of Jewish history (with appropriate flourishes and framing from the artist as the tale moves through Roman and Muslim periods), interspersed with the tale of Pekar's experiences in Hebrew school, his initiation into the leftist politics of the 1960s, his disillusionment with Israel as an oppressor, and his empathy with Arabs who were seen as the enemy. "Israelis mark this as a war of independence," he says of the triumph he initially celebrated. "Palestinians call it the great catastrophe." Pekar deepens the discussion through conversations with the illustrator, who lived for a couple of years in Israel (where Pekar had once attempted to move, but he received no encouragement from the Israeli consulate). Proudly Jewish but increasingly skeptical of Israel's moral authority, Pekar makes no claim to expertise on Middle Eastern relations: "What do I know? I make comic books and write about jazz," he admits. "I do know the difference between right and wrong, though." Even if other posthumous work follows, it likely won't be any richer than this.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780809094820
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
07/03/2012
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.66(d)

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