“No other book has conveyed such an authentic,
penetrating, and enchanting sense of the Palestinian
people and their long struggle for rights and security.”
— Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories
Pamela Olson, a small town girl from eastern Oklahoma, had what she always wanted: a physics degree from Stanford University. But instead of feeling excited for what came next, she felt consumed by dread and confusion. This irresistible memoir chronicles her journey from aimless ex-bartender to Ramallah-based journalist and foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate.
With dizzying speed she found herself attending Yasser Arafat's funeral, tour-guiding Israeli friends around the West Bank, dating a Palestinian from a conservative village, being held at gunpoint and injured by a stun grenade, and witnessing the 2005 Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip.
The gripping narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and politics but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic drama that happen in between.
Funny, gorgeous, shocking, and galvanizing, Fast Times in Palestine challenges the way we think not only about the Middle East but about human nature and our place in the world.
"Harrowing, funny, vivid, entertaining and deeply humane, Fast Times in Palestine opens a rare window onto Palestinian life. It’s impossible not to be moved on nearly every page."
— Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree
"I realize that without knowing it, I have long waited for this book, although I could not have imagined its lyric magic in advance of reading."
— Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton (full review)
"What makes her story so compelling is that she tells it in an honest and straightforward way, not by relying on hot rhetoric. For anyone who wants to learn the truth about life under Israeli occupation, this book is a superb starting point."
— Prof. John J. Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby
"More than a travelogue or a polemic, the book is a coming-of-age story, as Olson discovers her voice by directly confronting the challenges of living in a state of institutionalized paradox... Engaging and easy to read, this is a fascinating memoir."
"The strength of the narrative lies in Olson's investigation of the personal and mental effects of oppression and war on herself and her newfound friends, 'the atmosphere of mute shock expressed only in sidelong glances… of knowing something few people knew, and of genuine connection and collective struggle…' An empathetic, intriguing memoir."
inspiring account of life in Palestine that's enormously informative yet
reads like a novel."
"Pamela Olson leads the reader on an exciting, funny, at times
heart-wrenching journey, carefully deciphering complex political and
historical issues. Olson is a talented writer, intelligent and
exceptional in her ability to convey both tragedy and hope, remaining
morally grounded and refreshingly honest."
"As an Israeli whose life was shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I found Fast Times in Palestine
moving and refreshing. Pamela Olson comes to the Middle East with a
blank slate and is therefore able to hold up an undistorted mirror to
the reality she encounters."
"Pamela Olson operates in a great tradition of American explorers,
from Martha Gellhorn to Susan Meiselas to Rachel Corrie — open-minded
women who have thrown off a lot of tired received wisdom about a fearful
part of the world in order to see it for themselves, then brought that
understanding back to their own culture. This book is a triumph of
sympathy and observation."
"Fast Times in Palestine will open your eyes to the human
story inside the political drama. Mixing humor, memoir, political
intrigue, romance, and sociological commentary, Olson’s heartfelt work
will change how you understand the Middle East."
— Patricia Ryan Madson, Professor Emerita at Stanford and author of Improv Wisdom
"It's love in the time of
occupation as Pamela Olson... takes us on the
emotional roller-coaster of her very personal experience of life in
Ramallah — and in doing so lays bare the human drama of a people...
determined to live free."
— Tony Karon, Senior Editor, TIME
"In a field overcrowded with arcane academic texts and strident
polemics, Pamela Olson has broken through with a refreshing read that
packs gritty journalism into a fast-paced, intimate personal narrative."
"Part adventure story, part searing
reportage, part love story, and wholly absorbing... If
you want to know what everyday life is like for the Palestinian people,
go to Palestine; if you can’t, read this book."
— Dr. Kenneth Ring, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Connecticut, and co-author of Letters from Palestine
"Olson does not merely report on the world of others; she steps into their shoes and sees the world through their eyes. Fast Times in Palestine
is a heroic and touching journey to self-awareness that will awaken the
reader to a more humane perspective on the Arab world."
"Olson's masterful storytelling, imagery, and wit take the reader on a transformative journey through Palestine."
More News and Reviews
Review: Prof. Richard Falk
Review: This Week in Palestine
Review: Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh
Publishers Weekly (named it a Top 10 Travel Book of 2013)
National Geographic (named it a Best Travel Book of Spring)
Review: Love, Inshallah
Review: Eat, Read, Explore
Review: A Traveler's Library
The Dancing Cop at Al Manara (an outtake from the book)
Interview with IndieReader
Interview with Noor Elashi
Palestine Presentation at Google Tech Talks
From Self-Published to Published: A Highlight Reel
Pamela Olson, SheWrites
Nationwide Book Tour: A Peek Inside the Sausage
Pamela Olson, SheWrites
Book Tour USA: Week One
Pamela Olson, SheWrites
"I am a man; nothing human is alien to me."
~ Terence, Berber playwright of the Roman Republic
Yes, quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.
~ Thomas Hardy, The Man He Killed
"So much political capital has been made out of the Barcelona fighting that it is important to try and get a balanced view of it... Nearly all the newspaper accounts published at the time were manufactured by journalists at a distance, and were not only inaccurate in the facts but intentionally misleading. As usual, only one side of the question has been allowed to get to the wider public. Like everyone who was in Barcelona at the time, I saw only what was happening in my immediate neighborhood, but I saw and heard quite enough to be able to contradict many of the lies that have been circulated... It is... necessary to try and establish the truth, so far as it is possible. This squalid brawl in a distant city is more important than might appear at first."
~ George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
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