Review by Choice Review
Said (English and comparative literature, Columbia Univ.) is the foremost Arab American intellectual. His Orientalism (CH, Apr'79) still prompts ripostes and rethinking in Middle Eastern studies. Said has played an important role in and has often been a severe critic of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This thoughtful memoir is very much family- and school-centered. It chronicles the author's moves from his birth in Jerusalem to boyhood in Cairo to adolescence and young manhood in the US, with summers spent in the hills of Lebanon. Political events in Palestine and Egypt and the rest of the Arab world do not intrude excessively in Said's transcultural narrative, but their place here calls to mind the concluding lines of Wallace Stevens's "The Idea of Order at Key West" (1940): "And of ourselves and of our origins/In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds." Though the author concludes his reflections with his graduate school years (1958-63), there are forward flashes to later events, not least to the disaster of 1967--the total Arab defeat that, Said avers, made him into a new person--and to the eve of the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, when he learned of the cancer that predisposed him to write this moving book. General readers. L. M. Lewis; Eastern Kentucky University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
Said, a Columbia University professor, Palestinian advocate, and groundbreaking author, prefaces his lapidary and poignant memoir by explaining that he felt impelled to preserve the lost world of his childhood after being diagnosed with leukemia. Born in Palestine in 1935 and raised in Cairo's small Christian community, he witnessed the obliteration of his country and the creation of Israel before leaving for the U.S. Using his family history as a microcosm of those upheavals, Said devotes most of his analytical, self-revealing, and witty narrative to his parents. His stern Palestinian father, who never disclosed his origins, was an innovative and immensely successful businessman. Said's mother, a Palestinian of Lebanese descent, was his closest confidante. But both were so strict and critical, they made Said feel as "out of place" within his own skin as he did in the world at large. It was this ingrained sense of outsiderness, matched by a restless intellect, that led him, as he so eloquently explains, to the solace and challenges of art, scholarship, and politics. --Donna Seaman
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
An influential literary critic (Culture and Imperialism, etc.), writes movingly and honestly about his life of dislocation and exile. Prompted by a diagnosis of leukemia in 1991, Said's new book is infused with a desire to document not only a life, but a time and placeÄPalestine in the 1930s and '40sÄthat has since vanished. Born in 1935 to a Lebanese mother and Palestinian father who had American citizenship, and raised in Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon, Said has always lived with a divided identity. Even as a child he realized that his first name was British, his last name was Arabic and his nationality was American. In a straightforward, often poetic style, Said charts his family history, his education in British and American schools and his move to the U.S. in 1951 to attend Princeton and begin what was to become a distinguished career as an academic and intellectual. The memoir's most engaging elements are the little personal details that help us understand his later work: the young Said's love of such Hollywood films as Arabian Nights, with Maria Montez, or the novels of Twain and Cooper, offer fresh insights into his later writings about orientalism. Said can be frank about his personal lifeÄwhether it's learning about masturbation or his intense relationship with his mother, whom he identifies as Gertrude to his HamletÄwhich gives the book moments of deep, intimate openness. In the end, this memoir is less a tidy summing-up than an acceptance and exploration of what has been. As Said says, he has "learned actually to prefer being not quite right and out of place." Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Possibly the best-known Arab American intellectual of his generation, Said (English and comparative literature, Columbia Univ.) offers a riveting account of a tough but successful youth caught between two very different worlds. Said's writings range widely from classical music criticism and political commentary to groundbreaking research in comparative literature; Orientalism (1978), an examination of the way the West perceives the Middle East and Islam, is arguably his most influential book and continues to enjoy worldwide success. To many, especially Middle Easterners, he is also famous for his advocacy of Palestinian self-determination. In this new memoir, Said sheds light on his formative yearsÄfrom his childhood as the son of a wealthy Palestinian Christian businessman in Jerusalem and his days as a young exile in Cairo to his graduate education at Harvard. A sense of sadness permeating this book may result from his having written most of it while recovering from leukemia in the mid-1990s. Highly recommended for large collections.ÄAli Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Said's compassionate and lyrical memoir explores his feelings of displacement in both his cultural setting and his family, revealing the roots of his intellectual, political, and personal unfolding. A distinguished cultural critic (The Politics of Dispossession, 1994, etc.), Said has gained a reputation as a bold intellectual and a noted spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. Faced with a diagnosis of leukemia in 1991, Said decided to recapture the world of his early childhood in Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon, followed by what turned out to be a permanent move to the US. The result is a ``record of an essentially lost or forgotten world.'' This is a bittersweet memoir of a boyhood in a sleepy summer town in Lebanon, of the cosmopolitan, colonial world of Cairo in the '40s and '50s, and of the dramatic changes in Palestine before Israel gained statehood. It's also the story of Said's early sense of alienation, the distinct (and eventually cherished) feeling of being an outsider. A Christian Palestinian in Cairo with a proper British name and a father with American citizenship, the young Said felt out of place early on. Said is an insightful and close observer of the details of daily life that create an entire mood in a people or family. The subject of his own family'a pampered and eerily sheltered group'is equally central to Said's critical yet tender account of his growth from the confused and insecure ``Edward'' (a creation of his parents) into an emotionally and intellectually mature man. Said devotes enormous lyrical and emotional energy to presenting his parents' role in his life, describing in heart-wrenching detail the domineering father and the influential, manipulative mother who watched his every move. Both culturally and emotionally, maturity for Said could only come from a separation from his early life. A beautiful and moving account that stands on its own as a classic in the art of memoir and as a key to understanding the genesis of Said's intellectual work.
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