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

Pamela Olson, Author
Pamela Olson. Seal (PGW, dist.), $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-58005-482-9
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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. (Mar.)
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