Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why it’s never a good idea to write a children’s book out of spite

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I found out 2 days ago that an author out there is making a name for herself by writing and self-publishing a book called “P is for Palestine.”  Cute book, right? So sweet and happy and intifada-friendly.

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Oh, I’m not making that up.  This book is all over the intifada: “I is for Intifada.  Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup!”

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If you’re guessing that that book includes absolutely ZERO about the other people who share this land – “Hello, yeah, us, the Jews who have been here ALL ALONG???” - you’re right.  The book is an unsurprisingly one-sided narrative

According to the author, who crowdfunded over $15,000 for this project (preselling the book for $16 per copy with free shipping in the U.S.), “There are currently countless alphabet books about most countries, cities, and themes in the world…But none about or for Palestine in the English language.  Until now…”

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She’s right.  There were none.  And there still ARE none.

Now that this writer has succeeded and is going into a second printing, with all kinds of rave reviews and great publicity around the world, there’s STILL no book about or for Palestine in the English language that discusses anyone other than its Arab inhabitants.

Pride and national identity are great, but not at the expense of others.  This book denies the existence of Israel.  This book advocates violence.  (See above if you don’t believe me – “I” would have been a great place to mention Israel… or anything, really, other than Intifada.)

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This book makes a lot of people I know sick.  And they’re not the only ones.

In case you're wondering who's raving about the book, one of the most adoring reviews on the writer's Etsy shop is from a female Jewish filmmaker in California, who writes: 

"We ADORE the book! The illustrations spread joy and smiles with every page. The charming ABC content has us learning and laughing at the same time. The best of all my preschool child is reading the Palestine book 2-3 times per day since the day it arrived. Thanks so much for creating these treasures!"

So, yeah.  This is what the next generation of Jewish kids is reading about Israel.  Except, wait a second, they'll NEVER read about Israel in that book, will they?

If that isn't a crisis, I don't know what is.

But I wanted to do something constructive about it, not just sit at home and fume.

So – how does spite come into this?  Well, hearing about the book from a children’s-writer friend, I thought, “Let me at it!  Let me write a book of my own!”  I was sure I could rise to the challenge and write a book, steal the name “P is for Palestine,” and tell the other side of the story.  Our side.

In rhymes, of course.  Cute, fun rhymes.

Because did I mention that I’m super good at rhymes?

I was like, “I’ll show them… I’ll write “P is for Palestine,” but it’ll be super-good, amazing, so much better than theirs.”  Which, of course, it is.  Spite may be the wrong way to do stuff, but it sure does work.

Except…

I came to realize two things in the intensive period when I wrote, proofed, illustrated and published this book (yes, it is now available on Amazon – in Kindle form, with print to follow iy”h tomorrow or the next day):

  • The book cannot show only the Jewish side – to do so would be as skewed and imbalanced as that other book.  I’ve added the subtitle “An ABC of Peace” to reflect this, along with an ideological slant to match.
  • The book can’t be called “P is for Palestine,” simply because the land has another name now.  It was called Palestine by its Roman occupiers (perhaps after the long-gone Philistine people) and is now called Palestine by its detractors, but the land I love is known very simply today as Israel.

So the name changed to “I is for Israel.”  Simple.  It works.  I checked and there seem to be 2 other books with the same title, but oh, well.  You can’t copyright a title.

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I illustrated the book with amazing stock photos.  It took a very long time to select exactly the right ones to get across exactly the point I was trying to make.  But I am so, so proud of the results…

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(I really wanted to make every page a 2-page spread, but didn’t think people would love a 54-page kids’ book.  And yes, that is who you think it is in the “L is for Land” picture… I am surprising even myself here.)

So – I guess the message is that this book might have started as an act of “spite,” kind of tit for tat – your Palestine narrative for my Palestine narrative.  But as far as I’m concerned, it ended up being a lot more.  A statement that means a lot to me about Israel and the Jews, our past, present, and future in this amazing land.

You can’t write a positive, happy, hopeful children’s book from a place of spite.  You can only do it out of love… like the kind of love I’ve poured into this story.

I hope you’ll read it.  I hope you’ll agree.  But of course, even if you don’t agree, I still love to hear from you.

Here’s the full book description on Amazon:

"I is for Israel, the whole Jewish nation
Coming together in grand celebration
Each year on its birthday we gather to sing
And pray for the peace that the future will bring."

Israel is so many things to so many people: ancient and promised holy land, modern and vibrant nation - and sometimes, a place where peace and coexistence can be hard to find. Through delightful rhymes and exciting full-color photographs from the Land of Israel, share a journey of discovery together as you explore Israel's past, present, and future.

Celebrate the beauty, history, and resilience of today's Israel!

I really hope you’ll check it out.

Oh – were you wondering what P stands for in I is for Israel?

Well… Palestine, of course.

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Some of us are all about living together peacefully.  Some of us aren’t dead set on writing kids’ books calling on readers to wipe each other out.  Some of us are writing from a place of love, not hatred.

There’s even kind of a nice message in it for Chanukah – something about the forces of light winning out over the forces of darkness.  A little light burning in a very cold world.

Chag Chanukah Sameach!!!



Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Tzivia, so thoughtful of you! Have bought the book on Amazon.ca.
    It's not "perhaps" after the long-gone Philistine people, they WERE long gone and Romans choose to change the name of our country from Israel to Palestine exactly because the people were long gone and would not fight for the land. The change happened right after Bar Kokhba revolt, to eliminate future events like that.
    Happy Hanukkah and hugs from Toronto.

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