Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956–1978

Kai Bird, Author . Scribner $27 (424p) ISBN 978-1-4165-4440-1

Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning coauthor of American Prometheus , offers a compelling hybrid of memoir and history, weaving together recollections of his childhood in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt; the stories of his wife’s Holocaust survivor parents; and rigorous scholarship on the region. The book’s title—Mandelbaum Gate once separated Israeli-controlled Western Jerusalem from the Jordanian-controlled East—indicates a view on the conflict, and it’s certainly that, but it’s also much more: readers are given ringside seats to Cairo under Nasser, the author’s American family’s friends (including Osama bin Laden’s elder brother), and Bird’s years in India and the U.S. during the heyday of the antiwar movement of the ’60s. Notable events and figures (airplane hijacker Leila Khaled, for example, or the Palestinian-Jordanian battles known as Black September) are given detailed treatment and their continuing resonance is made clear. Bird’s brushes with history—his first girlfriend was held hostage on an airplane hijacked to win Khaled’s release, for instance—brings home the deeply messy humanity of the stories he binds together in this kaleidoscopic and captivating book. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 01/11/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-4391-7160-8
Hardcover - 424 pages - 978-1-84737-933-7
Paperback - 424 pages - 978-1-4165-4441-8
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-1-84983-104-8
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