Seal Press (CA)

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Fast Times in Palestine

By Pamela Olson

Pamela Olson graduated from Stanford with a degree in physics and no idea what she wanted to do next. So she worked as a bartender and saved some cash until a friend asked her if she wanted to visit the Middle East. Once she started, she just didn’t stop.

Making friends and being invited in to the world of Palestinians was something that Pamela showed us from the inside looking out. Living in Ramallah, Pamela falls into a job with a Palestinian presidential candidate, and eventually becomes a journalist.

What starts out as a heartfelt memoir without a plan; except to travel and see what it’s like, becomes a stirring journalistic account of one girl’s journey to the center of the conflict. Being stopped at every checkpoint and shown no special treatment in most cases, Pamela travels a road that not many are permitted to; even Palestinians.

Palestine is home for Pamela, and until they visit, her family doesn’t see the appeal. Behind the danger and fighting and killings, there lies a beautiful landscape of natural and man-made magnificence. Sadly, most of it has been ravaged by war. As Pamela travels across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we see a gentle and unfair side of the world that is only previously known to us as violent; a side that includes families, friends and a degree of hospitality that America just doesn’t seem to have.

The honesty with which this memoir is written is startling, and as naivety blossoms into knowledge we witness the transformation that Pamela undergoes: from tourist to foreign press coordinator. It’s a gorgeous journey, filled with friends and even love. Quais is a Palestinian man that Pam falls for and they try their hardest to have some sort of relationship despite the war-torn locations they live in.

Olsen draws a stunning picture for her readers; one that draws us in to sit in an olive grove and share homemade meals with people we barely know but seem like family. Fast Times in Palestine is a realistic look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that comes from behind the walls built to keep people separate and not let outsiders in. This is one story that won’t appear in the papers, and will provide a fascinating perspective for anyone looking for an honest look inside Palestine.

Reviewed by Keri English for Indie Reader