Rummanah Aasi
 I recently read a slew of Middle Eastern books on a variety of topics. I like how this reading challenge pushes me to read about countries that are beyond the U.S. and Europe. I hope to continue to read from a broader spectrum next year. 

Description: Samir, a Palestinian boy, is sent for surgery to an Israeli hospital where he has two otherworldly experiences, making friends with an Israeli boy, Yonatan, and playing a computer game together about a trip to Mars, during which Samir finds peace about his brother's death in the war.

Review: Samir and Yonatan is a compelling read. It is written by an Israeli author who writes about the budding friendship between two boys, a Palestinian and an Israeli. There are no definite sides of right and wrong given to the Palestianian-Israeli conflict. In fact most of the plot takes place in a some what neutral territory of a hospital in Israel. The author strives and succeeds in showing how not all people from both sides of the border are evil and that tolerance can be achieved. Though not the best written book, I really enjoyed the message and recommend it for younger readers.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some war disturbing images as well as scenes where tweens are experimenting with cigarettes. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valérie Zenatti, Enemy Territory by Sharon E. McKay

Description: Living in the midst of civil war in Beirut, Lebanon, Zeina and her brother face an evening of apprehension when their parents do not return from a visit to the other side of the city.

Review: Game for Swallows gives us a look into one ordinary day of war torn Lebanon in the 1980s. Zeina and her little brother are waiting in the foyer of their apartment for their parents to return from visiting their grandmother in West Beirut. Bombings and sniper fire intensify in their neighborhood, and their neighbors huddle with them in what is the safest location of their building. As the neighbors arrive, Zeina gives us back stories of her neighbors and how the war has touched their lives. As the shootings and bombings continue, many neighbors are planning contingency plans if their country's condition doesn't improve. While the drawings may remind some readers of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (which I highly recommend reading if you haven't already done so), I felt wanting more from the graphic novel. I would have liked more historical information in order to really feel all the emotions that the characters feel throughout the story. I also wanted to know more about these people too.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are some war disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Waltz with Bashir by

Description: Set in the aftermath of Iran's fraudulent elections of 2009, Zahra's Paradise is the fictional story of the search for Mehdi, a young protestor who has vanished into an extrajudicial twilight zone. What's keeping his memory from being obliterated is not the law. It is the grit and guts of his mother, who refuses to surrender her son to fate, and the tenacity of his brother, a blogger, who fuses tradition and technology to explore and explode the void in which Mehdi has vanished.

Review: Zahra's Paradise was an eye opening reading experience. Part political criticism on the lack of citizen's rights to assemble and freedom of speech and part a harrowing struggle of a finding a loved one in the midst of chaos and riots of 2009. The artwork on these pages is stunning, showing the machinations of the corrupt government as well as traces of the beauty and poetry of Iranian life. An array of diverse and carefully drawn characters help and hinder the search for young Mehdi, everyone from a taxi driver to the daughter of a former disgraced general, a print shop owner to shady government officials. Small acts of heroism bring hope to this family, but they also bring consequences. I was really surprised to find out that this story is fictional and not nonfiction, which I had expected it to be.I would recommend this graphic novel to those interested in Iran and the Middle East.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is language, nudity, sex, and scenes of implied rape. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Students for a Democratic Society by Harvey Pekar
3 Responses
  1. I am so pleased you read a bunch of Middle Eastern books. I'll have to add them to my list to read in 2013

  2. I'm always trying to explain to my almost 13 yr old the situation in the Middle East, the prejudices that almost seem to be genetic, the hatred, the wars. I want him to see it doesn't have to be that way. I'll get him Samir and Yonatan to read so he can maybe see it from both sides.

    Great mini reviews! I love reading your reviews of books from other countries!


  3. I like the sound of Samir and Yonatan, Rummanah, as I think it has a great message.

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