Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book: Cairo Unzipped by Mona Fuad

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Book: Cairo Unzipped by Mona Fuad

9780578110394-Perfect.inddIt’s the 1940’s and the desert sun is setting in Cairo. This is the scene of Layla’s story. A beautiful, young girl forced into prostitution at age 12 by her own mother, Layla dreams of freedom in Europe. While set more than 70 years ago, Layla’s dream is not far from that of those living in today’s modern-day, protest-laden Egypt.
Layla’s story is the focus of Mona Fuad’s fascinating new book, Cairo Unzipped. A friend of Layla’s and former Egyptian movie star, Fuad chronicles Layla’s meteoric rise during a revolutionary period of Egyptian history.
Due to the turmoil in Europe, Egypt became a melting pot of Europeans from nations, being put to the fire, by the Nazis. Layla, with no money and fewer options, would not only survive the life of a call girl during this tumultuous time, but also rise to become the mistress of the most powerful man in Egypt, King Farouk.
While focused primarily on Layla’s story of strength and overcoming adversity, Cairo Unzipped also shares a bit of Fuad’s life.
Very much the opposite of Layla’s troubled youth, Fuad, born in Alexandria, was a once crowned Miss Egypt and could be found in many Egyptian and American films, including The Ten Commandments.
Upon leaving show business and moving to America with her husband, Fuad founded the first acrylic nail salon in Dallas and helped define the landscape of the now over $35 billion nail industry.
FuadauthorIn a powerful and interesting feature interview, Fuad’s book addresses: the drastic differences between Layla and Mona’s upbringings in Egyptian society; prostitution in Egypt — then and now; life during the Arabic Revolution; behind the royal curtain: a look at the life and luxury of King Farouk; and, the Egyptian-American Dream, Mona’s story of success in the U.S.
Mona Fuad was born in Alexandria, Egypt and, at age 16, won a national beauty contest and would go on to become a future Miss Egypt. Her career then turned to film as Mona appeared in both Egyptian and American films, including The Ten Commandments and The Spy. After moving to the U.S. with her husband, Mona, who speaks six languages, founded the first acrylic nail salon in Dallas and helped define the landscape of the now over $35 billion nail industry.
Mona and Layla, the focus of her new book Cairo Unzipped, have been lifelong friends, although their roads to success have been vastly different. They still remain friends, now in the U.S., today.
For more information, please visit
Cairo Unzipped is available on and

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: The Secret of Rose-Anne Riley by Shaw J. Dallal

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Book Review: The Secret of Rose-Anne Riley by Shaw J. Dallal

By A. Clare Brandabur

Professor EmeritusEnglish Department, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
TheSecretofRose-AnneRiley1-7-2014_edited-2This is the second novel by the author of, an important narrative of the Palestinian diaspora, Scattered Like Seeds. Shaw J. Dallal’s The Secret of Rose-Anne Riley is an altogether different type of novel, but like its predecessor, one that will appeal to a wide spectrum of interests. This novel is a fictional account of four generations of a melting-pot Irish American immigrant family whose first and second generations settled in various locations across the frontier and who started out working primarily as farmers in places as diverse as Illinois, Texas, and upstate-New York, though they rise to academic and business positions through hardwork and study.
The most intriguing and unusual feature of this story is the degree to which the memories and tragic personal history of a beloved grandmother, come to haunt –perhaps possess would be a better word–the consciousness of her grand-daughter Alexia. While her mother Carla pursues a career, Alexia and her twin brother John find themselves more and more in the care of their elderly grandmother, the Rose-Anne Rilley of the book’s title. Rose-Anne is the gentle Grandmother whose violent rape, covered up and papered over, continues to fester like a corrosive wound, finally emerging to darken the life of a beautiful girl in the family’s third generation . Her benevolent care endears her to both children, the twins Johnny and Alexia. Both children love Rose-Anne, but it is Alexia who becomes increasingly her confidante and companion during her final illness.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Book Review: American by Choice by Farouk Shami

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Book Review: American by Choice by Farouk Shami

By Ray Hanania 
FaroukShamiUp until a few years ago, most Americans probably didn’t know Farouk Shami, despite the wildly successful trajectory of his popular hair care product company, Farouk Systems, which he founded in Houston in 1986.

A Palestinian immigrant who came to America with only $71 in his pocket, Shami was born just north of the City of Jerusalem near Ramallah. He is the epitome of the American immigrant success story. He was dedicated to one goal, creating the best hair product company with the most advanced American technology based on his principles of “Education, Environment and Ethics.”

Today, Farouk Systems employs more than 2,000 people and distributes products in over 100 countries around the world. He used some of his successes to help his community, donating to Palestinian causes and previously serving on the national board of the moderate and respected American Task Force on Palestine in Washington D.C.

A committed American, Shami broke into the public consciousness in a big way, announcing his candidacy for elective office in 2009. Shami set his sights high, using his wealth to run for Governor of Texas in the Democratic primary. He lost to the more seasoned political pro, Bill White, the two-term former mayor of Houston and former Deputy Secretary for Energy in the Bill Clinton administration. White went on to lose the governor’s race to Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

But he became a familiar name when he leveraged his friendship and business associations with the popular New York real estate magnate and TV personality Donald Trump, who introduced Shami in May 2011 episode of Celebrity Apprentice. Contestants were required to come up with a marketing campaign for Farouk System products. That was followed up with a second appearance on the 4th episode of Trumps popular All Star Celebrity Apprentice.

Just weeks ago, Shami reinforced his name recognition as a sponsor and judge on the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant. Farouk Systems was a presenting hair care sponsor of the internationally celebrated beauty pageant. He appeared along with rock superstar Steven Tyler, Olympic Gold Medal figure skater Tara Lipinski and Carol Alt, the former supermodel and health specialist on the far rightwing FOX Cable TV network.

Who is Farouk Shami? Probably one of the best known American Palestinians in the country. And this year, he released his official biography, self-published, “American by Choice” which offers a fascinating look into the immigrant life of a successful American Palestinian, overcoming prejudice, illness and rivalries.

It’s hard to be a Palestinian and not be somewhat controversial. His success has forced mainstream America to accept him as an equal and he often found himself next to controversial leaders including former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, which he discusses in the opening chapter of his book. “I was born in Palestine, but I was made in the USA,” he writes proudly.

In accepting a recognition as “Entrepreneur of the Year” at a Washington D.C. gala, Gingrich acknowledged Shami’s Palestinian heritage, even though in a high profile public appearance two years earlier when he claimed that “Palestinians” were “an invented people,” one of the most ridiculous and politically motivated comments of the 21st Century.

In “American by Choice,” Shami offers a frank story of his family and his life, beginning with his birth in Palestine, introducing us to his parents and his brothers, and their constant travels to the United States. His experiences during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War are as chilling to read today as they were to live through years ago. Yet through it all, Shami managed to remain loyal to his cultural heritage while committed to his adopted home country, America.

President George W. Bush and former President ...
President George W. Bush and former President George H.W. Bush sit on stage at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, during dedication ceremonies. Both are scheduled to attend opening ceremonies scheduled for later in the evening. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“What a privilege it is for anyone to live in America and experience the American Dream,” Shami writes with pride. 
“Perhaps it means more to me as an American by choice rather than an American by birth. I think many Americans take for granted what this great nation offers them. It is the only country many of them know. There is nothing wrong with that but having experienced the alternatives allows me to see the virtues of America all the more vividly.”

But the real story is Shami’s success as a businessman, something that is shared by many in America. Shami was summoned by then President George W. Bush and he re-equipped the White House hair salon when First Lady Laura Bush would have her hair done. Laura Bush loved the products and treatment so much she recommended it to her in-laws and the next thing Shami knew was he was being summoned by former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, too.

His professional services were also sought by Jordan’s Royal Family, providing hair care products to Princess Alia and meeting her father King Abdullah who gave Shami two Arabian stallions, named Naseer and Hewar. In 2006, Shami organized an international conference in Amman Jordan that brought hairdressers from around the world and from Middle East countries.

Shami offers you a front row seat into his personal and business life, one that is well worth knowing. How Shami built Farouk Systems by hand is an amazing story of entrepreneurial success. It’s not a Palestinian story, a Jewish story or an Irish story, but rather the story of the American Dream.

“American by Choice” is a fast and easy read. It’s written from the perspective of a humble but very proud immigrant American who happens to be Arab. I enjoyed it very much.

Shami has moved across many stages in his life and I expect there will be a Book II someday because clearly, his motivation shows he is not done achieving that Dream that we all share equally. His pride in being Arab comes through loud and clear and should resonate with everyone who identifies with the immigrant experience, which for most Americans is their true history.

American by Choice

$19.99 252 pages
Farouk Shami on
Click Here to purchase book

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Book Review: Flying Carpets by Hedy Habra

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Book Review: Flying Carpets by Hedy Habra

Author Hedy Habra has penned another great read, the book “Flying Carpets” a collection of 21 short stories that take you through Lebanon and Egypt and mysticism, supernatural and Arab culture.
The stories offer a deep insight into Middle Eastern Arabian culture and they entertain in a refreshing style of easy to read writing, something lost on many Middle East writers, especially today. “Flying Carpets” offers a reprieve from the turmoil of the Middle East today and provide a relaxing and sometimes exciting tapestry of friendships, love and rivalries, internal tortures and fears, and travel from Khan Khalili to Achrafieh.
A courageous story about a Christian Girl and Muslim boy fall in love in Lebanon. People wondering about what could have been in life, something everyone does in daydream or reality. And so much more.
If you want to escape the pain of the Middle East conflict, and yet still remain in the Arab soul, Hedy’s imagination and stories offer a great respite. It was a very fast read, something I could have continued to pursue with 100 more stories.
Hedy strives for and achieves the Arab tradition of storytelling, which is far more fascinating that just the stories she tells in the 212 pages of “Flying Carpets.” Ms. Habra (Sabbagh) is of Lebanese origins born in Egypt which explains the settings selected for many of the opening stories. She received a BS in Pharmacy while in Egypt and has her degrees in literature from Western Michigan University, where she is currently a teacher.
I enjoyed it a lot. I think you will too, especially if you live and breath “Arab.”
Flying Carpets
By Author Hedy Habra
212 Pages, $15, softcover
Interlink Publishing

Friday, October 4, 2013

Book Information: New Middle Eastern Street Food by Sally Butcher

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Butcher’s tongue-in-cheek personal narrative is simply irresistible
Her more than 130 recipes yield, in addition to giggles, a great deal of wisdom
 Not only is almost every recipe accompanied by elegant color photographs, but each recipe features enough patter to coax anyone into the “try it, you’ll like it” mindset.
Booklist on The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian

Following the great success of Sally Butcher’s last cookbook, The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian: Modern Recipes from Veggiestan, Interlink is delighted to be publishing Butcher’s third cookbook, New Middle Eastern Street Food: Snacks, Comfort Food, and Mezze from Snackistan. Her two previous books were both highly praised—Persia in Peckham was selected as Cookbook of the Year by the London Times, and The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian was shortlisted for Cookbook of the Year by the UK Guild of Food Writers.

With over 100 delicious mezze-style recipes, New Middle Eastern Street Food is an irresistible collection of healthy and easy-to-prepare recipes—classic street foods like kebabs, dolmeh, falafel, kibbeh, shawarma, pulaos, salads, egg dishes and meat pies, pickled veggies, tagines, hummus, couscous, rice, bean and lentil dishes, as well as Sally’s own creations like Lamb-Stuffed Prunes, Orange Blossom and Mint Lemonade, Sweet Tabouleh Salad, Zucchini and Eggplant Cake, Israeli Veggie Dagwood, and Spinach with Rhubarb and Pomegranate. As co-owner of one of London’s most popular Middle Eastern food emporiums, Persepolis, Sally Butcher’s love and knowledge of Middle Eastern cuisine is extensive, and “Snackistan,” her imaginary country, is one we will all want to visit again and again.

This new addition to our international cookbook collection will delight your palate, expand your culinary repertoire, and make you laugh out loud. Butcher’s culinary expertise, her sense of humor and wit, and Yuki Sugiura’s stunning color photography combine to create an exuberant and mouth-watering read.

46 Crosby Street · Northampton MA 01060-1804 · Tel: (413) 582 7054 · Fax: (413) 582 7057
Publicity Contact: Moira Megargee · ·

“Reading this book was like sitting down with a good, well traveled foodie friend – and a funny one at that this is a cookbook that informs and delights the reader even as it surprises and enchants
Veggiestan” may be a made up country, but once you get there, you will want to visit over and over again.”—Christian Science Monitor

New Middle Eastern
Street Food
Snacks, Comfort Food, and Mezze
 from Snackistan
By Sally Butcher

The indomitable Sally Butcher is back and at it again after the success of her wonderful and well-received cookbook, The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian. New Middle Eastern Street Food:  Snacks, Comfort Food, and Mezze from Snackistan is a mouth-watering collection of over 100 quick, healthy, and easy-to-prepare, and—most importantly—delicious recipes from “Snackistan,” a fictitious land where tummies are always full, and there’s a slightly naughty smile on every face. It features simple fare that people actually eat on a daily basis: street food, dishes prepared at home, cooked to share with friends, or to look forward to indulging in at the end of the week.
New Middle Eastern Street Food picks out the Middle East’s most exciting street foods and mezze dishes, together with a variety of homey, simple snack recipes elicited from family and friends. Chapters include Nuts and Nibbles, Fishy Things, Meat on Sticks, Meat Not on Sticks, Salady Stuff, Hot Veggie Dishes, Mostly Carbs, Puds, and Something to Wash it Down With. The burst of flavors is intoxicating, as is Sally’s trademark wit and attention to detail—making New Middle Eastern Street Food a must-have for all Middle Eastern food enthusiasts. Welcome to Snackistan, please have your boarding passes ready!

Sally Butcher is a London-based food writer and cookbook author. She and her Iranian husband own Persepolis, the acclaimed Persian food store in London. Her most recent book The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian (also published by Interlink) has been hugely successful and was shortlisted for the Guild of Food Writers’ Cookery Book of the Year Award.

New Middle Eastern Street Food: Snacks, Comfort Food, and Mezze from Snackistan
by Sally Butcher
Publication Date: January 2014
Interlink Books, an imprint of Interlink Publishing Group, Inc.
Ethnic Cooking • 7 ½” x 9 ¾” • 208 pages • full-color photos 
ISBN 978-1-56656-958-3 • hardcover • $30.00

Carrots with Cardamom and Cumin
Carrots, cumin, and cardamom are a cozy threesome, oft found together on the pages of recipe books. It’s a relationship that clearly works, so who am I to argue?

3 large carrots
1½ tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
½ tsp ground sea salt
2 tbsp sunflower or canola oil

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
Peel the carrots and slice them very thinly. A mandoline would be handy here, although I find them scary and dangerous. The dextrous among you may well be able to shave off decent slices with a vegetable peeler.
Mix the spices and seasoning together with the oil, then toss the carrots in the mixture, turning them over until they are all coated. Spread them out on a baking tray and bake for 6–7 minutes, or until they are starting to brown and curl at the edges.
Cool them on a wire rack—they will crisp up more as they cool. These are pretty addictive on their own, but also team well with houmous. They keep for a few days in a plastic tub.

Mother-in-Law’s Tas Kebab
Every country/province/village/household makes it differently, but the principles are the same: meat or chicken is layered with vegetables and fruit and baked in a fragrant tomato sauce. In Turkey, tas means bowl, and tas kebab is usually prepared contained within an inverted bowl in the oven: the Persian version we offer here is much simpler. Unlike most of the khoreshts (stews) of Iran, tas kebab is usually eaten with bread as a comforting supper: the leftovers make for great anytime snack food. It is a hearty fare, but economical, as the ingredients are varied according to season and market price. I usually make it with the leftover pieces of vegetables in the bottom of the fridge. It is lovely with cooking apples or quince, when they are available. My mother-in-law normally uses chicken (as here), but occasionally she will prepare it with baby lamb kufteh.


2 onions, sliced
1 leek, roughly chopped
3 sticks celery, cut into fat chunks
1 chicken, skinned and cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp lime powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, cut into fat sticks
1 green bell pepper, cut into chunks
6–8 mushrooms, wiped
½ small butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into slabs
1 large eggplant, cut into ¾in/2cm cubes
1 cup/7oz/200g prunes (soaked if necessary)
2 tbsp good tomato paste
1 can (14oz/400g) chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
around 1 glass water

My, this is easy. But I might have mentioned that already. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
Layer the onions, leek, and celery into the bottom of a fairly deep baking tray. Arrange the chicken on top and sprinkle it with the spices and seasoning. Dot the rest of the vegetables and the prunes evenly around and on top of the chicken.
Mix the tomato paste, tomatoes, and olive oil together, and add the cold water. Pour the liquid over the chicken and vegetables, cover the tray properly with foil, and bake for around 1 hour 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Serve with warm bread.

These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:
Recipe(s) from New Middle Eastern Street Food: Snacks, Comfort Food, and Mezze from Snackistan by Sally Butcher
Published by Interlink Books, an imprint of Interlink Publishing Group, Inc.
$30.00 hardcover; ISBN: 978-1-56656-958-3

Praise for Sally Butcher’s Previous Cookbook
The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian
Modern Recipes from Veggiestan

Shortlisted for Cook Book of the Year by the UK Guild of Food Writers
Novice and experienced chefs who have little interest in Middle Eastern vegetarianism should, nevertheless, read this book
simply irresistible
Her more than 130 recipes yield, in addition to giggles, a great deal of wisdom. Side bars
are all educational and occasionally eye-opening
each recipe features enough patter to coax anyone into the “try it, you’ll like it” mindset. The range is enticing.”—Booklist
It's rare for me to read a cookbook cover to cover, but a trip to Veggiestan
was irresistible
Knowledgeable as all get out, Ms. Butcher is a London-based food writer who, with her husband, runs the renowned Persepolis—a Middle Eastern food store where
her enthusiasm and tenacity is in no short supply. This comes bursting through the pages of her new book—transforming scholarly authenticity into joy
the array of recipes from elsewhere in Veggiestan is dazzling in their scope and in their use of exotic (but findable) ingredients.”—Huffington Post
“If you are tired of your go-to vegetarian meals, try a visit to "Veggiestan.”...Leafing through the book, I was transported across the region with stories, fun facts, and recipes making use of rose petals, saffron, and tumeric
Reading this book was like sitting down with a good, well traveled foodie friend – and a funny one at that
Indeed, this is a cookbook that informs and delights the reader even as it surprises and enchants
it's perfect for cooks who are tired of their go-to vegetarian meals...“Veggiestan” may be a made up country, but once you get there, you will want to visit over and over again.”—Christian Science Monitor
“Veggiestan, home of delicious dishes
 a cookbook that demonstrates a love of vegetarian cooking, a deep understanding of the flavors of the Middle East and a wicked sense of fun
a land of tradition and innovation, a place of joy, energy and really tasty food
This is a volume to cook your way through, one delicious mouthful at a time.”—Marialisa Calta, “Stir It Up” column, UPI
The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian is a handsome book full of thoughtful recipes that celebrate vegetables—but could easily fit into a meal with meat. Next time you are in London, you’ll want to explore Persepolis—but till then, explore Sally’s recipes.”—SuperChef
“This is a book to discover and savor.”—In Mama’s Kitchen

“Last week, I picked up Sally Butcher’s The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian and I couldn’t be happier
. The author isn’t vegetarian and admits to a “terrible weakness for chorizo,” yet she does cut a broad swath of delicious territory that even vegans will want to explore.”—SavorSA


Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review blog has been relocated away from because of censorship

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Book Review blog has been relocated away from because of censorship

The Book Review blog is being relocated because of censorship by Google and

Here is the new link:

I know you will enjoy the new location.

You can still mail your books to:

Ray Hanania
PO Box 2127
Orland Park, IL., 60462

We do our best to review all of the books we receive.

Thanks so much and sorry about the inconvenience caused by Google and Censorship. WordPress offers a high presence on the internet and fewer Google related SEO hassles.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland by author Pamela J. Olson

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Book Review
Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland by author  Pamela J. Olson

This book really made me sad as I read it. Olson, a Stanford graduate from Oklahoma who studied physics and political science, is a very good writer. Her style is breezy but detailed and she captures what many writers who try to write about the Middle East fail to do, interesting facts meshed into her firsthand experiences. I say it made me sad because the Palestinian story is a sad story and Pamela Olson captures it so well and makes it interesting to read about.

Fast Times in Palestine is a fast read. But it is a sad read, too. Olson captures the tragedy of the Palestinians in a matter-of-fact manner that conveys the depth of the Palestinian experience as oppressed people under Israel's brutal occupation. She is not Palestinian, although I know many Palestinians from Oklahoma who lived and grew up in the conservative red-dirt haunting grounds of the oppressed Native Americans. She tells the story of how she was drawn into Palestine by an acquaintance who was Lebanese. And clearly very adventurous, she decided to travel to Palestine with two friends.

The book opens with her experience passing through Israeli security. Here she is, a typical American Christian, being grilled by Israel' border security determined to grind down any resistance from anyone who might be sympathetic to the Palestinians cause. The Q&A is humorous in a tragic way, similar to what I and I am sure many others have experienced going through Israel's intrusive, "you are guilty until proven innocent" grilling style.

It's funny that most Palestinians just don't know how to write. They know how to yell. They know how to scream. They know how to denounce their own brethren who they disagree with. And they know how to denounce Israel. But they just don't know how to tell their story. Olson, on the other hand, knows how to tell the story and she does it very well.

The key to a good book is ease of understanding and unburdened comprehensive reading. Not everyone knows how to write in an unobstructed style. Olson's style is easy reading. And easy reading makes the concepts she is conveying in a very compelling way. even easier to understand and identify with.
No surprisingly, she has written for the online Arab community, mainly for the activists. The Arab media consists of professional media and activists who write a lot of opinion and commentary poorly disguised as news. It's something Palestinians and Arabs just don't understand, that you don't have to beat someone over the head with a mallet in order to get them to understand and comprehend your tragedy. Olson immediately understood it, drawn in by another Arab's good looks. But I have long ago given up on the idea of romancing every American woman to win over the support of at least half of America's population. Because apparently, the only talent our activists have is winning over the hearts and minds of individuals, not large audiences or populations like Americans as a whole.

But I digress. If you really want to open up and sympathize with the Palestinian plight, read Olson's book. It's 306 pages of non-stop appeal. I wish she had written for some more impactful online news sites instead of Mondoweiss or the more popular Electronic Intifada where Palestinians who disagree with the One-Staters or who challenge the failure of the activism community are frequently pilloried, defamed and harassed not so much to harm them -- words are meaningless to intended targets -- but to discourage other Arabs and Palestinians from listening to their views. It's a relic of the dictatorial environment in which most Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians have lived and are imprisoned. The Arab community is controlled by Presidents-for-Life who wrap Palestinian's tragedy around their necks and use it like a whip to keep the cattle in line.

Fast Times in Palestine breaks free from all that, offering an in-depth look at the heart of the real Palestinian cause, the one that you won't hear about on Mondoweiss, the Electronic Intifada or the other places like Palestine Monitor which is less of a journalism site and more of an activism hub that focuses less on attacking other Palestinians and instead documents Palestinian events better than most other sites. Oslon should be writing for the New York Times as a columnist. She's far a better writer than Thomas Friedman and her message is clearly one of conveying an honest portrait of what's really happening on the ground in Palestine, where she spent several years observing and documenting, firsthand.

Olson also has an understanding of when and how to bring in facts, as she does often in explaining complex issues such as suicide bombing. In writing about being in Ramallah during one suicide bombing in Israel, she puts it all in a context that might help strangers to the Palestinian cause (anyone whose minds have been headlocked by the pro-Israel PR media machine in America, for one). It becomes an opportunity to understand the role of Hamas, and how it began and how the Palestinians turned to suicide bombings after American Israeli settler Dr. Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinian Muslims who were praying at a mosque in Hebron. When israel did nothing to respond to the tragedy, Hamas began a campaign to target Israeli civilians, an important fact lost in the "political translation" of Palestinian history when conveyed to pro-Israeli audiences that have been bought and sold by the Israeli lobby.

Even in describing meeting the family of a suicide bomber, Zaid up in Jenin, Olson manages to portray the people involved in a context of understanding. The family members, she wrote, described Zaid's transition from a happy-go-lucky young man into someone harassed by the Jewish settlers who are, in my book, pure evil and who easily provoke anger from the easily provoke-able Palestinians.

Every story Oslon offers in her journey is a story that I have experienced in visiting Palestine and that many other Palestinians have experienced, too, but just have not been able to share so fully. This isn't just a thin slice of Palestine but rather a deep portrait that captures so much.

She writes about her work for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, who inspired her to make her trip to Palestine after traveling through some Arab countries. Barghouthi is inspirational. He has a strong sense of understanding communications and the role it plays in politics and manipulating large uneducated audiences like Americans. I recall meeting with him and talking about offering to train his staff on communications, something most Palestinian organizations and leaders lacked. But I couldn't stay long. I wasn't surprised when I learned that he had hired Olson who did some great work in helping Barghouthi to get his message out not just to Palestinians but to Western audiences, too.

Fast Times in Palestine presents a representative blend of Palestinian life, from the violence we are forced to read in one-sided media accounts that place all the blame on the Palestinians to a rare portrait of the everyday life of human beings oppressed by a brutal military dictatorship. That she is able to preserve the softness of true Palestinian culture in the hard-edged events that she covered while in Palestine for two years beginning in 2003 is an achievement many other writers who have scribed books on Palestine have failed to do. Her writing is effective and I promise you that when you are done reading the book -- and it won't be a labored experience, but an easy enjoyable one -- you will have a better understanding of the Middle East conflict from the one perspective rarely captured by Arab and Palestinian writers, the standpoint of the real victims, the Palestinians.

This is a great book. I hope you take the time to read it, too.

Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland
By Pamela Olson
Seal Press (Perseus Books Group)
306 pages
March 2013

-- Ray Hanania