Few books will stay with us through our lives.
I have no “dog in this fight,” have had few interactions with people from the Middle East (though in truth all of them have been positive, from varied countries that to this Australian carry little to no baggage).
In its subjects and style, this is an extraordinary book. Everyone should read it. I say this very infrequently, both because of people’s tendency to be disappointed and possessing different tastes and because not all books reach that kind of achievement where they should be read by everybody. A memoir that is unlike any other, it is a rare and singular masterpiece.
In the reading will people be persuaded why I and many others will have suggested it; but hearing Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s story in outline is likely to persuade people as well. A Palestinian doctor who studied and has worked in various countries—including Palestine and Israel—Dr. Abuelaish lost three daughters and a niece during shelling by the Israeli army, yet he articulates unforgettably and in beautifully direct language why there is no sense in hanging on to hate and why all people should strive to build bridges rather than walls between us.
It is also a tribute to the incredible value of hard work, and the perseverance and togetherness needed in harsh times. I have not yet read Angela’s Ashes, famous as a memoir bleakly steeped in flesh and blood, but it is also a reminder to most people of how much more difficult life is for many struggling families and individuals in the world—yet still he pressed on, striving from a tiny room without basic facilities in childhood, and surrounded by threats and at times violence, to become a student who excelled (while also holding a range of wearying jobs to support his family) and later an important fertility doctor, both because of his diligence in his vocation but also because he has been involved with Israelis and Palestinians as patients and colleagues and, quite rightly, like the majority of those in the hospitals treated them as equals.
Due to its subject matter (and my distance from the emotions some may feel in perceiving villains and heroes in some regions in the world), there is a chance that one might be more lenient to the author because of their unique suffering, that it is a story to be indulged because it is so tragic and so important.
But I highly recommend the book as writing of the highest order—to those who feel “good books aren’t written much anymore” or imagine we’ve become, at least in some degree, desensitised to the things that matter, to the importance of thinking, I shall not hate. It is a short book (around 200 pages depending on the edition) but overwhelming and powerful. It is a book to be sought out, absorbed in the complexities of its emotional impact, and remembered for the rest of our lives, as much in its message hopefully as in its artistic achievement and inescapable poignancy.