Today is the official birthday of my second novel, Murder Under the Fig Tree. I hope those of you who enjoyed Murder Under the Bridge will read it and share your thoughts with me. It picks up a few months after the end of Murder Under the Bridge, after the elections that brought Hamas to power in the Palestine Authority (and before the coup that left them only in control of Gaza). Chloe is out of the country, but when she hears that Rania has been arrested, she rushes back, and another adventure in forging cross-cultural sisterhood begins. This book looks at some of the shifts in social mores taking place within Palestinian society, while always foregrounding the impact of Israeli military occupation on the people of the West Bank.
I have been depressed and outraged recently. Once I thought that outrage was a defense against depression, but it turns out they can indeed coexist. I am outraged about the rise of the overtly fascist right in our country and in Europe, and I’m depressed that the left seems unable to agree upon – or even dialogue productively about – the best tactics with which to defeat it. I am outraged over the ongoing destruction and massacres in Syria, and depressed that it is rarely even in the news any more. I am outraged over US-Saudi bombings in Yemen, which keep killing civilians “accidentally” and depressed by the absence of any movement in this country to hold our leaders accountable for these deaths. I am outraged that the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is rising again, just as Medicare for All was starting to be a thing, and depressed that all of our activism for single payer over the last twenty years has gotten us — here. I am outraged that my friend Herman Bell, who has been a political prisoner for more than forty years, was assaulted by a prison guard last week, damaging his eye, and depressed that now HE has been charged with assault and put in solitary confinement.
I am both outraged and depressed that there is no water in Gaza, that the United Nations has said it is “unlivable” and yet the Israeli blockade continues and the Palestinians are the ones called terrorists. I am outraged that Israel has authorized the construction of 4,500 additional units of housing for Jews only on illegally occupied Palestinian land in Jerusalem, while more than 40 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel because they were built without permits. And I’m depressed that consecutive US presidents, while calling settlement construction “unproductive,” have increased the amount of military aid we give to Israel to over $4 billion each year.
I am outraged that climate change is getting worse, that people in the Caribbean and Mexico are facing homelessness and death because of the greed of US capitalists. And I am depressed because my outrage does nothing to help them get housed or fed or stay alive, and because even all our efforts to reverse US climate policies, should they somehow succeed, may be too little too late.
And in the midst of all this, I am supposed to start promoting another book? How can another little mystery make any meaningful contribution to a world in such dire chaos?
I don’t know. I don’t kid myself that a book, even a much better book than mine, with much wider distribution, can do more than plant a tiny seed in the mind of someone new to the issues of Israeli occupation and Palestinian freedom. I think about Picasso, painting his reaction to the massacre at Guernica. I imagine it did not feel like a very adequate response. But generations later, many of us only know about Guernica because of Picasso.
I’m not suggesting I am like Picasso. But as a friend said, Picasso didn’t know he was Picasso either. I can only hope my book plants a seed that grows into a tree from which blooms justice and peace.
Or barring that, that people enjoy it and want to read the next one. Find out how to buy it at https://katejessicaraphael.wordpress.com/books/buy-the-book/