some, the adage “home is where the heart is” is a hackneyed platitude; for
others, it’s a wrenching expression of an almost filial bond. In Milwaukee
native SandyTolan’s 2006 nonfiction book, The
Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the
Heart of the Middle East, a Palestinian returning to his ancestral home in
Ramla uses such visceral terms to describe his connection to the land from
which he was expelled 20 years earlier.
were exiled, but we left our souls, our hopes and our childhood in Palestine,” he says. “We
left them in every corner, and on every grain of sand.” He arrives to find a
Jewish student—a daughter of a Holocaust survivor—living in the house. Instead
of turning him away, she invites him into what is now her home, and an unlikely
but enduring friendship is formed.
book appeared at a time when media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict still
fell short of fairly conveying the Palestinian side. “The media reinforces the
uber-narrative,” says Tolan, allowing for a few salient exceptions. “It’s
breathtaking how little the suffering of the Palestinians is reflected. We know
the Holocaust, but we don’t see that the ‘Nakba’ is as much of a reality to the
term “Nakba” means “catastrophe” and refers to the thousands of Palestinians
who fled following Israel’s
War of Independence. The book gives equal credence to both the meager lot of
the Palestinians and the dire suffering of the Jews fleeing Europe,
but more remarkably showcases the common thread between the two sides: their
desire to call some place their home. A conflict that’s become synonymous for
most with arbitrary boundary lines and startling statistics suddenly acquires
an unforgettably human face.
comes to the Islamic Center of Milwaukee, 4707 S. 13th St., on Tuesday, May 27, at
7 p.m. For an exclusive online interview with the author, go to the books
section of www.expressmilwaukee.com.
this week, award-winning journalist and author Simon Winchester comes to Milwaukee to talk about his new book, The Man Who Loved China. It concerns the
eccentric British biochemist Joseph Needham, who is widely attributed as having
changed Western perceptions of China.
before China had taken the
Great Leap Forward and was in the midst of a Japanese invasion, Needham landed on the
nation’s much-beleaguered soil. It made a profound impression and led him to
write one of the most ambitious accounts of Chinese science and civilization
ever written. Winchester’s book brings Needham’s eccentric
personality and absorbing adventures to life. What’s more, it comes at a time
role as an economic behemoth is unquestionable and its human rights record is
under greater international scrutiny than ever. Needham’s gripping adventures may serve as an
effective means of contextualizing the country’s contemporary role as a global
Winchester comes to the Harry W. Schwartz
Bookshop in Shorewood on Thursday, May 22, at 7 p.m.