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From the PublisherSo how will Americans be able to put on those shoes and see through those eyes? By engaging in loud debate? Vociferous argument? Lengthy lectures? Probably not. Sometimes it takes a small thing, something unforeseen, to open eyes and galvanize opinion. How about a good story?
Yes, a good story. Here's one: a novel entitled The Almond Tree. The first novel of a Jewish New Yorker, Michelle Cohen Corasanti, an epic drama of the proportions of The Kite Runner, but set in Palestine. A story that grabs you from the first page and makes your heart go out to the Palestinians without pointing fingers at anyone. An adventure that brings you into the magical world that travelers once crossed on horseback or camel towards Beirut, Amman or Cairo. A land where for centuries Christians, Muslims and Jews shared their traditions. Where the children inherited the land, generation after generation, and the clans stayed together. Where courage was not the absence of fear, but the absence of selfishness. Where children learned a fundamental principle of life: decency.
Spanning six turbulent decades, The Almond Tree follows Ichmad, a gifted Palestinian boy from a small rural village, on a journey of painful enlightenment as he seeks to keep his family together while trying to make sense of the violent conflict that surrounds him. When he encounters hardships and obstacles, Ichamd must learn to respond without hatred and understand that soldiers are only human beings and that war is merely politics. This novel is not a political lecture, but a gripping and compassionate work of fiction that puts the reader in those shoes that Obama spoke of.
If Americans can find the time to read this novel, I believe they will be inspired to ask questions and do research. The next time they watch CBS, FOX, NBC or CNN, instead of anonymous refugees or 'terrorists,' they will see the faces of mothers with children, grandparents with grandchildren, parents with brothers. People going to work, returning from school, shopping in the market. People who can't pick the oranges from their own trees because the Israeli military have blocked them off. Students who can't accept their scholarships to Harvard or Yale because Israeli authorities don't allow them to leave Gaza. And then, those same Americans who have been silent and unaware will demand justice and peace. Because this wonderful story is not about being anti-Israel, but about helping Israel to live in peace with its Palestinians brothers and sisters. Through The Almond Tree we can step into the shoes of the Palestinians. Then, we will begin to see, with our own eyes, a glimmer of hope in solving a conflict that weighs so much on us all.
With the onset of adulthood, one already must cope with so much. The Almond Tree follows the struggles of young Ichmad Hamid as his family is lose to strife, imprisonment, and everything they hold dear. The twelve year old learns it may be on him to use his limited talents to help his family and bring back something of a life. The Almond Tree is a strong addition to coming of age fiction collections, highly recommended.
Corasanti’s accomplished debut novel offers a humanistic look into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…Sensitive, moving and competently written, a complex novel as necessary as ever.
The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti is not the definitive Palestinian narrative, rather, it is the story of one Palestinian and his family. It is a work of fiction, but many of the incidents are based on things that really happened to the residents of Israeli Arab villages and the Gaza Strip. This is Ichmad’s story, told in a manner that strongly resembles the voice and narrative used by Khaled Hosseini in his popular novel, The Kite Runner.
This will not be easy reading for Israelis and Jews elsewhere, but it should be required reading. The pain and suffering described are that of the Palestinian protagonist. The victims of Palestinian terrorism are not mentioned because they play no role in Ichmad’s life. The narrative is clearly one-sided, but it is a side that is unknown to the Israeli public. Any chances of reconciliation and peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians depend on hearing and understanding what has taken place on the other side, and this is true in both directions.
"…Michelle Corasanti's profound and finely crafted debut novel tells the story of one man, Ichmad Hamid, from his humble beginnings as a scared and helpless child in an occupied village through to his inspirational rise to power and influence. This intimate tale of love and loss and awareness shines a greater understanding of the personal toll of the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict."
"…beautifully written and exhibits an inherent knowledge of life in theOccupied Palestinian Territories and Gaza. Corasanti's elaboration of history and fiction has created a touching narration which ensnares the reader fromthe first chapter."
"The Almond Tree, intelligent, never over stated and written with love, informs and educates – it reminds us that there could be a better way to share this land and that if you allow intellect to blossom only good will come from it."
"Michelle has captured the pain, the sense of betrayal, the daily life, and the spirit of triumph that is ultimately an accurate portrayal of the Palestinians. Her instrument is fiction but her powerful prose and compelling characters raises The Almond Tree to the status of epic – the heroic story of a people just like us."