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Press Releases New Book: KINGDOM OF OLIVES AND ASH: Writers Confront the Occupation
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New Book: KINGDOM OF OLIVES AND ASH: Writers Confront the Occupation

“On the 50th anniversary of Israeli occupation of Palestine, top writers bear witness to oppression and despair… Moving, heartbreaking, and infuriating, testifying to the chilling cruelty of Israel’s policy toward Palestinians… Deeply unsettling, important stories call for urgent responses to the Middle East conflict.”    Kirkus, starred review

“This sensitive, galvanizing, and landmark gathering brings the occupation into sharp focus as a tragedy of fear and tyranny, a monumental failure of compassion and justice, a horrific obstacle to world peace.”     –Booklist, starred review




Writers Confront the Occupation

Edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman

June 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Israel occupation of the Palestinian Territories—a milestone brought into even sharper focus by 2016’s United Nations Security Council resolution citing the presence of Israeli settlements as a hindrance to true peace with the Palestinians. Over the decades, the violence on both sides of the conflict has been horrific, the casualties catastrophic. In 2004, to speak out against the injustices committed there and help to end the occupation, a group of former Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied territories created a nonprofit organization, Breaking the Silence.

When members of BTS met novelist and essayist Ayelet Waldman at the Jerusalem Writers’ Festival in 2014, they invited her to tour Hebron, a city of more than 200,000 Palestinians, with a settlement of a few hundred Israeli settlers – guarded by hundreds of Israeli soldiers – lodged at its core. What she witnessed disturbed her greatly, and as she later described the events to her husband, Michael Chabon, they both came to understand that they wanted to do something, anything, to change the situation. Then they realized: “Storytelling itself—bearing witness, in vivid and clear language, to things personally seen and incidents encountered—has the power to engage the attention of people, like us, who had long since given up paying attention, or have simply given up.”

Working with BTS and other local Palestinian and Israeli activists, Chabon and Waldman invited two dozen acclaimed writers from around the world to visit the West Bank and Gaza to share what they saw with the world. Kingdom of Olives and Ash (Harper; $16.99; Trade Paper Original; ISBN 13: 970-0062431783; On-sale: May 30, 2017) is a collection of unflinching, often devastating testimonies to the ground level, human consequences of an occupation too often seen from afar as an intractable abstraction.

  • Dave Eggers, after nearly being turned away at the border gate, spends a weekend in Gaza, talking with a young couple desperate to obtain visas to America where they might be able to make new lives for themselves.
  • Israeli novelist Assaf Gavron considers the plight of Palestinian soccer players, whose efforts to participate in international competition are often frustrated at the border.
  • The renowned Palestinian author Raja Shehadeh writes about his friend, a Palestinian taxi driver, and the obstacles placed in front of average Palestinian as they seek to navigate the Kafkaesque maze of the occupation.
  • Madeleine Thien writes about life in the small villages of the South Hebron Hills, including Susiya, where every house has been given a demolished order by the Israeli authorities.

Other contributors to this anthology include Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Lorraine Adams and Geraldine Brooks, National Book Award winners Colum McCann and Jacqueline Woodson, and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.


About the Editors

Michael Chabon is the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys, Werewolves in their Youth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Manhood for Amateurs, Telegraph Avenue, and Moonglow. Ayelet Waldman is the bestselling author of Love and Treasure, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace, and A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. They live in Berkeley, California, with their children.

All royalties from the sales of Kingdom of Olives and Ash will be divided between Breaking the Silence and Youth Against Settlements, a Palestinian NGO based in Hebron.


Starred Review

Kingdom of Olives and Ash:

Writers Confront the Occupation

edited by Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman

On the 50th anniversary of Israeli occupation of Palestine, top writers bear witness to oppression and despair.

When Waldman (A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, 2017, etc.) visited Israel for the Jerusalem International Writers Festival in 2014, she met members of the nonprofit groups Breaking the Silence and Youth Against Settlements, who helped her to understand “the massive, often brutal, always dehumanizing military bureaucracy” that defines the occupation. Hoping to focus attention on the desperate situation, she and her husband, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Chabon (Moonglow, 2016, etc.), invited an international roster of writers to tour towns and villages in the Israeli-occupied territories and meet with community organizers, workers, artists, activists, farmers, and families, as well as Israeli settlers and disillusioned soldiers. Their responses to those visits are moving, heartbreaking, and infuriating, testifying to the chilling cruelty of Israel’s policy toward Palestinians. Even Palestinians given Israeli citizenship are vulnerable to “demographic transfer”—or “forced displacement” in order “to achieve the ‘purity’ of ‘the Jewish state,’ ” writes Palestinian-born, British-educated Fida Jiryis. “One can only wonder at the sadistic ingenuity with which Israel has woven an airtight system around us to suffocate every aspect of our lives.” Walls are a recurrent image: they keep Palestinians in their crumbling towns and separate farmers from their land, workers from their jobs, and family members from one another. Gaza, writes Dave Eggers, “is a prison” with a 40-mile, 25-foot wall on its northern border with Israel and the heavily patrolled Mediterranean on the west. Checkpoints require elaborate documentation, which takes countless hours to assemble. As Chabon notes, “control of time is one of the biggest weapons of the occupation.” Young soldiers wield deadly power capriciously; houses are evacuated and razed in the middle of the night; a refugee camp has “no infrastructure of any kind.” Among the most well-known contributors are Geraldine Brooks, Mario Vargas Llosa, Colum McCann, and Jacqueline Woodson; royalties will go to NGOs.

Deeply unsettling, important stories call for urgent responses to the Middle East conflict.

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