Posts Tagged ‘middle east’

You Review: The Lie – Hesh Kestin

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Reviewed by Barbara Povel

The Lie is a modern day story set in the Middle East, in Israel and Palestine. We all hear about it in the news, the conflicts, the tragedies, and the crimes against humanity from both sides.

It’s written by Hesh Kestin, an Israeli correspondent who is also a veteran of the Israeli army.  Knowing that in advance, I wondered which path he was going to take in telling his story… and was pleasantly surprised! The main caracter is a female Israeli defence attorney for Palestinians who are accused of terrorist activities. She is known to be against torture as a way of interrogation, but is asked by the government to decide when torture could be used as a legitimate method. When her own son is kidnapped by Hezbollah, one Palestinian man might have the information needed to find him back. He happens to be an old colleague of hers, and a longtime friend of the family; their mothers are very close. Will she stand by her beliefs, or is torture admissible if it could save her son’s life?

The book is a bit like a movie: going from one location to the other and back and I just couldn’t put it away until I knew what had happened. It’s not just a thriller, it’s also a story about people and humanity and the roles women play.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

There is no ebook available (yet) for The Lie, but there is an ebook available of an earlier book by Kestin: The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats.

ABC Meets: Author Fatma Kassem

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Author Fatma Kassem will present her book Palestinian Women: Narrative Histories and Gendered Memory at the ABC Treehouse in Amsterdam and the ABC Treehut in The Hague later this month.

Palestinian Women is the first book to examine and document the experiences and the historical narrative of ordinary Palestinian women who witnessed the events of 1948 and became involuntary citizens of the State of Israel.

Told in their own words, the women’s experiences serve as a window for examining the complex intersections of gender, nationalism and citizenship in a situation of ongoing violent political conflict. Known in Palestinian discourse as the ‘Nakbeh’, or the ‘Catastrophe’, these events of 60 years ago still have a powerful resonance in contemporary Palestinian-Jewish relations in the State of Israel and in the act of narrating these stories, the author argues that the realm of memory is a site of commemoration and resistance.”

Travel the world from your sofa

Friday, April 29th, 2011

One of the trickiest questions you ask us is “Which books are about [PLACE]?”

You’d think it would be an easy one, and sometimes it is. But books don’t usually have the place they are about included in the title, or printed handily on the cover. Plugging “fiction OR travel writing + [place]” into an online book store’s search engine, or even Google,  is often surprisingly unhelpful. There are lists online, or in the back of travel guides, but none of them are comprehensive and they tend to list many books that aren’t in print any more.

That annoyed us. We do not like being stumped. Tricky questions nag at a bookseller’s conscience long after the customer has left the store. So we’ve compiled an in-progress list to answer that tricky question. These are the books that we think give a vivid and accurate impression of a continent, country or city. It’s in progress because we need you to help make it perfect. We know we’ve missed out a lot of titles, and there may be a title or two here and there that really doesn’t reflect the place they are about well enough.

If you’ve read a book that gives an impression of a place, and it’s not on our list, tell us about it!

If you think a book doesn’t belong on this list, tell us that too!

Let us know in the comments and we’ll make this the best list of books about countries on the internet!

Handy tips:

  • The list is divided into continents, and then into non-fiction and fiction.
  • Each title on the list has the place (we think) it is about in brackets.
  • If there’s no specific place mentioned, then it is about a large part of that continent, or the entire continent.
  • To find a specific country hold the ‘ctrl’ key on your keyboard and hit the ‘F’ key. Then type the country in the search box that appears, and hit ‘enter’.



ABC Meets: Zia Kohn and Joyce Lagerweij, authors of Urban Art book Concrete Messages

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Banksy’s paintings on the Israeli-Palestinian separation barrier paved the way for a new wave of artists from around the world. Banksy was the first. He was soon followed by several street artists who wanted to showcase their work in one of the world’s most conflicted areas.

The 725-kilometre-long separation barrier was supposed to be completed in 2010. Today, only some 60% has been built. The world is trying to coax the parties into new peace negotiations. It is unclear whether the barrier will ever be finished. But it is clear that the 8-metre-tall concrete barrier that already exists affects and provokes strong emotions. It is also clear that it has become something of a street art MOMA, with works by the greatest names. Art asks questions and clarifies the opposition. The thought of giving the local populace something pretty to look at clashes with the reluctance among many Palestinians to decorate the barrier and give new life to the debate on how to relate to the existence of the barrier. Should it be decorated or ignored? Or be preserved as a symbol of the conflict?

In the new book, Concrete Messages, artists from around the world talk about why they chose to travel to the West Bank to work on the barrier. What did they want to achieve, and what were their experiences in this conflict-ridden area?

Zia Kohn & Joyce Lagerweij will launch Concrete Messages: Street Art on the Israeli-Palestinian Separation Barrier at ABC Amsterdam this November.

Date: Saturday November 6th
Time: 3 pm
Place: The American Book Center, Spui 12, Amsterdam

A Love, By Any Other Name…

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Impressions of Gay Life in Muslim Countries

muslimhands.jpgGay identity is denied in most Muslim countries. That there are men and women within those areas who primarily love people of their own gender is a biological certainty. But most of them would not label themselves ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’, they would see the attraction as just one small aspect of themselves that they try to fit into their lives while adhering to what is expected of them by friends and especially family.

Family is very important, both caring for the current generation as well as raising the next one. Getting married before you are thirty and  having children is the only accepted way to live in many places. Not doing so could lead to loss of honor for you and your family. This means that most gay love and lust takes place behind closed doors and isn’t acknowledged even while everybody around knows that it happens. As long as there are no witnesses and it isn’t talked about, everybody can pretend that no social mores are being broken.

Considering that gay sex is officially frowned upon and even punishable by death in many Muslim countries, the casual intimacy between men is one that will surprise many tourists. Much more than in Western countries, men are likely to be seen touching each other in a physically intimate way or even walking around the city hand in hand. The ‘Western’ gay identity threatens this way of interacting with each other by making it look suspect and threatens the entire family-oriented society. It introduces new options and choices that could upset the basis on which the society is built. Gay Muslims may start to question things and realise that the way their heart is pulling them does not have to point towards certain doom, but could lead them to a happy, if alternative, family life.

gay-travels.jpgGay Travels in the Muslim World is a series of autobiographical short stories, edited by Michael Luongo. It gives an impression of the Muslim world as described above. The majority of them deal with contrasts and conflicts between Western culture and Muslim culture, from various perspectives. Most of the stories were written by Western visitors, one or two by people within the culture.

The style, tone and attitudes of the writers vary, and while some of the tales are likely to annoy you, you will find a couple that are touching and interesting. I liked the story of an American who starts a long-distance romance with a Turkish man, only to find out he is married and has children. Rather than break up with his long-term lover, the Turkish man integrates him as an ‘uncle’ into his family, where he is lovingly accepted. Not all the stories are sweet though; in several of them, local men desperate for money and tourists desperate for sex with locals meet each other on a sharp and uncomfortable knife’s edge between two cultures, using each other for selfish purposes.

All in all it is an interesting collection, well worth a read for anybody interested in this different perspective on gay identity. And if you want to take a more academic look at the topic, you may also want to pick up Unspeakable Love – Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East

Related links: Author Michael Luongo’s picture gallery. Interview with Michael Luongo on the Feast of Fools Podcast.