Sadness Is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jonathan, at 19, is the narrator of this novel, told in letters written to his friend Laith from military prison in Israel.
This novel is about the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine, but on a much more personal level. It is about family and family history, and how that molds our path. It is about friendship and the barriers that arise, how far intimacy can go when it confronts your identity. I found it overall to be just a bit too long, but enjoyed the read.
Jonathan moved with his family to Israel, where he is getting ready to join the military. In his younger years he befriends Palestinian twins, after his mother meets their mother at a protest.
Jonathan is Jewish, and is finding his identity inside Israel where he is the majority, an experience he hadn't had in the United States. His new friendships are tenuous, and he instinctively hides his friendship with Laith and Nimreem from his Israeli-Jewish friends. (Laith and Nimreem, coincidentally, also consider themselves to be Israeli but have to endure far more curfews and checkpoints than Jonathan does.)
At one point he goes to Greece to explore his family's roots, and he uncovers still-present racism, hatred, and learns more about the deaths of his family members, and the destruction of their lives there. This is a part of who he is and why he wants to be in the military, but there is a bit of idealism in his sense of duty, of military service. Nimreem knows this and confronts him in various ways, from yelling to poetry (the work of Mahmoud Darwish is important in this novel, and the title comes from one of his poems), but it takes him more time and experience to understand what she is trying to say.
Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title through NetGalley.
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