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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Harvey Pekar's New Posthumus Book and What to do with it

Pekar, Harvey  (2012) Not the Israel my Parents Promised Me.  New York:  Hill and Wang

I'll admit, I usually am not sure what to do with Harvey Pekar.  He was a grumpy, curmudgeonly, lovable, annoying, talented, depressed, jerk of a guy.   His writing tends to be self-absorbed, honest, opinionated, persuasive, offensive, and emotionally moving.  So now, some years after his untimely death, this interesting graphic novel comes out.  It charts Pekar's change from a Jewish boy raised by Zionist parents, to a college student and later adult who questions the way Israel deals with Palestine, and indeed questions Israel's exclusive right to the land it occupies.  The book is, at times, overly didactic, and the framing device of Pekar having a conversation with these two guys in a bookstore seems as contrived as it is, yet somehow it also works.

So it is an interesting book.  Can I recommend it to high school teachers or their students?  I certainly wouldn't encourage a class to read it -- it would put half of them for sleep for sure.  I wouldn't suggest that this be the go to book for a teacher trying to engage an average student in reading. 

But if you have a gifted student who likes new perspectives and might be interested in understanding what goes on in the middle east and what is behind most of the situations that concern Israel and its neighbors -- if you have a student like this -- well then this book might be a handy one to keep around.

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