Sunday, October 17, 2010

Second Annual Boston Book Festival

I attended the Second Annual Boston Book Festival yesterday and enjoyed it as much as the first year, if not more.

The sessions I attended were: Israel/Palestine: Novel Approaches; Crimes & Misdemeanors; My Mother she Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me; It Books: YA Fiction; and the Keynote with Joyce Carol Oates.

The first session I attended, Israel/Palestine was EXTREMELY intense, it featured Alan Dershowitz and Susan Abulhawa, ostensibly talking about their novels. I arrived more than halfway through Dershowitz's talk, when he was explaining the historical screw-ups of peace negotiations with Arab nations, resulting in Palestine only being able to offer Israel "peace in the east" and not on any other border, especially not the peace with Iran that is desperately needed. He then finished with a reference to his book, Trials of Zion.

Abulhawa began with explaining the plot and characters of her book, Mornings in Jenin. She then want on to discuss her strong feelings that novels are in many ways autobiographical, and that hers certainly are, although all of her characters become their own people as well. She says that one of her main characters spent three years in an East Jerusalem orphanage, as she herself did growing up. She then continued to discuss her aim of representing the true Palestinian people, with their own culture, flaws, and luminaries. She started saying some pretty shocking and controversial things, in a calm, matter-of-fact voice, she stated that "the Palestinian people are slowly being wiped out of existence," that they are suffering from "the cruelest military occupation in the world," and that "every human rights group that has ever witnessed the situation there has said the same."

Dershowitz actually remained quiet for this, but when it was his turn, insisted on providing a "counter-narrative," and asserted that the masssacre in Jenin, which Abulhawa's book is about, was fictional. Abulhawa asserted that it was based on truth, and she herself had been there to see it. The debate devolved into name-calling and interruptions, primarily on Dershowitz's part, with Abulhawa calmly taunting him, reading from a list of quotes, which he claimed to be false, and garnering audience applause.

I think Dershowitz came off looking far the worst, as he tried to use rhetoric, as well as simply defaming Abulhawa, to turn the situation around. I was embarrassed to have him representing a side I mostly agree with, and Abulhawa and her appalling accusations came off rather well.

I don't know what the truth is, I don't know if there was a massacre in Jenin or not. I believe that Abulhawa believes it happened. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. It depends what you call a massacre. The Boston Massacre killed five people. I left with the intention of reading Abulhawa's book sometime, if only to get the view from the other side. She claims her book is not one-sided, but she admitted her only Jewish characters are "haunted by the atrocities" of what they have done. She also called Dershowitz's Arabs "stick-figures" and "cartoonish," which may well be true. I wonder if it is possible for people so far on either side of the debate to really represent the other side in a realistic way.

Moving on, I did make some nice purchases, I got the anthology of modern fairy tales, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, and got it signed by the editor and two of the featured authors. I also got an English translation of the work of Liliana Ursu, a Romanian poet, from Zephyr Press, based in Brookline, MA that publishes poetry in translation.

1 comment:

Marie said...

I went to the MY MOTHER SHE KILLED me event too and really enjoyed it. I wish I had seen the Dershowitz/Abulhawa talk though. Sounds pretty memorable and thought provoking.