cover image Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me

Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me

Harvey Pekar and JT Waldman. FSG/. Hill and Wang, $24.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8090-9482-0

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)