First of all, let's be honest and upfront. I did not begin reading this book with an open mind; far from it. The situation of the Palestinians, both those in Palestine and those who are exiled and forbidden entrance into their own homeland, has long been one that I have felt strongly about. It has been with great satisfaction that I have seen how the age of the Internet and cell phones has begun to make it impossible for the injustice and oppression that is going on to remain secret. Pamela J. Olson's Fast Times in Palestine follows closely in the footsteps of Sharon Lock's Gaza Beneath the Bombs, telling the story of modern day Palestine through the eyes of a Western observer.
Perhaps observer is not the right word. Olson spent many months in Palestine during different time periods. She made friends, she picked olives, she learned, she taught, she celebrated marriages and saw death. One of the things that made her experience unique was that she didn't go to Palestine for any political reason. She wasn't there to be a human shield in the tradition of Rachel Corrie. She wasn't in an aid organization or working as a journalist. She was a typical, self-absorbed young woman who went there, more or less, on a whim, and who, through the course of the book, finds herself face to face with situation after situation that opens her eyes, and her heart, to the plight of the Palestinian people.
I admit I rolled my eyes a few times over Olson's ability to attract gorgeous doe-eyed men wherever she went, but her story of awakening to the reality of the lives of the Palestinians and, ultimately, her determination to share her experiences there with others, was interesting and well-written. She doesn't paint with too wide a brush, either, as is often the case when one writes about something one is passionate about. She doesn't portray all the Israelis as demons, nor all the Palestinians as saints. She simply wrote what she saw and experienced, and how it made her feel.
Fast Times in Palestine is more than a travelogue. It is the story of two journeys: the author's travels and experiences while living in Palestine, as well as her inner journey from ignorance to awareness and, ultimately, to action.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Pamela Olson grew up in small-town Oklahoma and studied physics and political science at Stanford University, class of 2002. She lived in Ramallah for two years, during which she served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi's 2005 presidential campaign. She's published stories and articles in CounterPunch, Electronic Intifada, Israel's Occupation Magazine, and The Stanford Magazine, among other publications, and she is a frequent contributor to Mondoweiss. She lives in New York with her Turkish fiance. Visit her blog.
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