Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Book Review: Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat

This past year, there was a student in my 20th Century Studies class who fell horribly behind and failed the second quarter of the course. Mom was upset naturally and wanted to fix the problem---one week before school ended (approximately 3 months after said problem initially occurred). It's a long, ugly story that does not have a happy ending but, instead, a compromise. You read a book, write a paper, and we'll see what happens. Since we were studying immigration during most of the period in question, and later the Arab-Israeli Conflict, I asked Laura, my friend and MRH librarian, to recommend some books about those two experiences. Tasting the Sky was the book that I chose.

Much of what we know about the Arab-Israeli conflict in the US comes from the point of view of the more Western Israelis. But what about the Palestinians? Especially the average, powerless Palestinian? Without assigning or accepting blame, Barakat, who is Palestinian, begins her powerful memoir in Surda, in the West Bank, when, as a teenager, she is detained at a check point by Israeli soldiers. Extremely descriptive and vivid, Tasting the Sky is an important read for several very strong reasons. First, Barakat's writing. I gotta love an author that loves the prepositional phrase as much as I do. Secondly, Tasting the Sky does indeed remind us of the importance of point of view and experience in shaping an individual's reality. And, lastly, Barakat's memories, especially her early childhood ones, sadly reminds us that while war may sometimes seem justifiable, it is always tragic.

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