Sadness Is a White Bird
by Moriel Rothman-Zecher


Overview - A 2018 National Jewish Book Award Finalist for Debut Fiction

"Nuanced, sharp, and beautifully written, Sadness Is a White Bird manages, with seeming effortlessness, to find something fresh and surprising and poignant in the classic coming-of-age, love-triangle narrative, something starker, more heartbreaking: something new." --Michael Chabon

"Unflinching in its honesty, unyielding in its moral complexity." --Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks

In this lyrical and searing debut novel written by a rising literary star and MacDowell Fellow, a young man is preparing to serve in the Israeli army while also trying to reconcile his close relationship to two Palestinian siblings with his deeply ingrained loyalties to family and country.  Read more...


 
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More About Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
 
 
 
Overview
A 2018 National Jewish Book Award Finalist for Debut Fiction

"Nuanced, sharp, and beautifully written, Sadness Is a White Bird manages, with seeming effortlessness, to find something fresh and surprising and poignant in the classic coming-of-age, love-triangle narrative, something starker, more heartbreaking: something new." --Michael Chabon

"Unflinching in its honesty, unyielding in its moral complexity." --Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks

In this lyrical and searing debut novel written by a rising literary star and MacDowell Fellow, a young man is preparing to serve in the Israeli army while also trying to reconcile his close relationship to two Palestinian siblings with his deeply ingrained loyalties to family and country.

The story begins in an Israeli military jail, where--four days after his nineteenth birthday--Jonathan stares up at the fluorescent lights of his cell, and recalls the series of events that led him there.

Two years earlier: Moving back to Israel after several years in Pennsylvania, Jonathan is ready to fight to preserve and defend the Jewish state, which his grandfather--a Salonican Jew whose community was wiped out by the Nazis--helped establish. But he is also conflicted about the possibility of having to monitor the occupied Palestinian territories, a concern that grows deeper and more urgent when he meets Nimreen and Laith--the twin daughter and son of his mother's friend.

From that winter morning on, the three become inseparable: wandering the streets on weekends, piling onto buses toward new discoveries, laughing uncontrollably. They share joints on the beach, trading snippets of poems, intimate secrets, family histories, resentments, and dreams. But with his draft date rapidly approaching, Jonathan wrestles with the question of what it means to be proud of your heritage and loyal to your people, while also feeling love for those outside of your own tribal family. And then that fateful day arrives, the one that lands Jonathan in prison and changes his relationship with the twins forever.

Powerful, important, and timely, Sadness Is a White Bird explores one man's attempts to find a place for himself, discovering in the process a beautiful, against-the-odds love that flickers like a candle in the darkness of a never-ending conflict.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781501176265
  • ISBN-10: 1501176269
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publish Date: February 2018
  • Page Count: 288
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.95 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > War & Military
Books > Fiction > Jewish

 
BookPage Reviews

A trio torn apart by war

American readers may not be familiar with the conflicting loyalties some Israeli combatants feel regarding their government’s policies; sometimes Israelis go so far as to enlist in the army and then refuse to serve.

But Sadness Is a White Bird, a lyrical debut by a rising literary star, may change that. The novel tells the story of a very young soldier who is driven to his breaking point when his friendship with Palestinian twins interferes with the expectations of country and family.

The novel begins in a jail cell just days after the narrator’s 19th birthday. Two years ago, Jonathan’s family moved to Israel, where he completed high school and readied himself for mandatory army service. As a committed Zionist, Jonathan’s ideals were shaped by his grandfather’s childhood in war-torn Salonica, Greece, and his later involvement in the early militias that led to Israeli statehood after World War II. But after meeting two Palestinian students at the University of Haifa—Laith and his sister, Nimreen—Jonathan’s hard-won perspective begins to change. His new ideals are tested when his unit is called on to protect a new settlement from protesters.

Before that day, Laith, Nimreen and Jonathan formed an inseparable trio, hitchhiking cross-country, hanging out in seaside cafes and spending more than one pot-fueled night on the beach. The friendship has an erotic edge; Jonathan finds himself attracted to both of the siblings, as much a physical attraction as a meeting of the minds fueled by the sharing of ideas, memories and poetry. The novel itself is written as a passionate letter to Laith from the imprisoned Jonathan, and is peppered with lyrics and phrases from notable Palestinian poets and filled with the urgency of a young man trying to understand where he stands.

Informed by author Moriel Rothman-Zecher’s background in Arabic literature and social activism, both of which add passion and integrity to the story, Sadness Is a White Bird is part coming-of-age tale and part unblinking observation of a political situation that continues to defy solutions, treaties or agreements.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews