Article About The Almond Tree By Michelle Cohen Corasanti And 11 5-Star Reviews From Tower.Com

5 Mar

Novel with Hollywood potential exposes Israel’s lies

4 March 2013


There is an increasing trend when reviewing fiction to consider the biography of the writer, as well as the work in question. It should be the case that the reader completes the text rather than the writer (or their life) being drawn upon to explain it. But when writing about a conflict as contentious as the Israel-Palestine one, it becomes more likely that the ethnicity, political and religious affiliations of the writer are considered relevant.

Michelle Cohen Corasanti is a Jewish American and has written a book that many may consider to be inappropriate for her to write, for her book’s central character, Ichmad [sic], is a Palestinian, and not just any Palestinian, but a boy genius whose intelligence far outstrips almost all of the other characters in this book: Israeli, Jewish or otherwise.

The transliteration of the central character’s name as Ichmad rather than Ahmed is an indication of who Cohen Corasanti writes for, as well as where she writes from, as this is the spelling of an Arab name in the way most commonly associated with Hebrew speakers.

As opposed to the multidirectional outlook of the writers in Seeking Palestine, which I recently reviewed for The Electronic Intifada, who appear to write outwardly to an audience unfamiliar with Palestine as well inwardly to other Palestinians, Cohen Corasanti has a clear audience in mind — namely those people who are not aware the realities that she has become painfully aware of and to, it could be safely said, her own kind, i.e. Jewish readers. This is reflected both in the author’s note, where Cohen Corasanti states her desire to “make the world a better place,” and in the quotation at the beginning of The Almond Tree, which is from the Torah: “That which is hateful to you, do not do unto another … That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary.”

The novel’s main character, Ichmad, is born during the year of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in a village that would find itself within the boundaries of the new State of Israel. The book is divided into four sections that trace different stages of Ichmad’s life, from 1955, 1966, 1974 and ending in 2009 when Ichmad and his wife travel to Gaza from New York and witness the devastating aftermath of the Israeli bombardment.

The Almond Tree is not a book for those with a taste for gritty realism and the Palestinian characters are portrayed with sweetness and affection that is reminiscent of Ruth Prawdha Jahbwala’s depictions of India. It is also not a novel that seeks to challenge the form of the novel and it seems to have few aspirations for creating a work of subtle beauty or stylistic innovation (such as, for example, Ibrahim Nasrallah’s A Land of White Horses), but as a work of fiction, it works.


The story may be a familiar one to many readers of The Electronic Intifada, but it is one that has been suppressed. The characters, despite being somewhat one-dimensional, hold the reader’s sympathy and interest; the novel connects emotionally and it compels the turning of pages. The writing is clear, unforced and uncluttered. It is told in a straightforward linear fashion, with no flashbacks or alternative narratives, and keeps a steady, easy pace. It is frequently moving, despite being occasionally rather sappy, with some of the Israeli characters’ transformation from bigotry to understanding, as well the adaptability of Palestinian virgin-from-the-village brides to New York, bordering on the incredible.

The Almond Tree has all the makings of a bestseller or a Hollywood film. It is a rags-to-riches (in this case tent-dweller to international award-winner) tale with love, suffering, death and justice thrown into the mix. The star character thwarts his opponents with the force of his astonishing intelligence, inner kindness, decency and a keen sense of justice. It is pleasing to witness, enjoyable to read.

The power and importance of this book lies in its simplicity, its setting and the place where the indignation of the teller of this tale stems from. Cohen Corasanti’s voice comes through this novel as a person outraged at having been told a lie, with the lie being the nature of the State of Israel, where she lived for many years.

Abuse at every turn

Cohen Corasanti does not pull any punches in exposing the lie she has been told. In the opening pages, Ichmad’s cherubine toddler sister is blown up by a landmine laid on their family’s land that has been expropriated by force. The family house is confiscated, forcing them to live in a hut, which is demolished, pushing them into a tent. Israelis not only evict Palestinians from their land, but also divert their water, exploit them as laborers, impose curfews, refuse building permits, close borders, imprison arbitrarily, methodically discriminate against and humiliate Palestinians with racist slurs and abuse at every turn.

Ichmad’s family are Palestinians from the land that Zionist forces expropriated in 1948, who are forced to deal with the militaristic Israeli state that has been imposed on top of them, which clearly does not want them to be there.

In The Almond Tree Ichmad attains an Arab scholarship against all odds and gains entry to an Israeli university. The tensions being felt by Palestinians in Israeli institutions have been covered by other writers such as Sayed Kashua and Cohen Corasanti does not cover these relationships to the depth or with the type of humor or irony Kashua uses so masterfully in Dancing Arabs. But she does deal with the split identities and selective vision that artificially enforced racial, religious or ethnic divisions can bring about. Israeli students who know Ichmad grow to accept and love him while continuing to loathe other “Arabs,” while Ichmad cannot tell his mother that he has Israeli friends. Similarly. the Jewish American liberal parents of Ichmad’s girlfriend who have brought her up on a diet of peace and love for all mankind cannot take it when she goes out with a Palestinian.

Cohen Corasanti’s approach, in a manner similar to that of Susan Abulhawa in Mornings in Jenin, is one of a steel fist in a kid glove. This novel is already attaining a wide readership, many of whom have been brought up with the lie that Cohan Corasanti is seeking to expose.

The Almond Tree is a compelling book, written from the heart by a courageous writer with an important story to tell.

Selma Dabbagh is a British-Palestinian writer. Her debut novel is Out of It.

**************YES SERIOUSLY, THESE ARE ALL ELEVEN OF THE REVIEWS ON TOWER.COM, AND THEY’RE ALL 5-STAR; ANYONE WOULD       *******************************************THINK THAT IT’S A TRULY AWESOME BOOK.**********************************************

5 out of 5 stars Lovely Literature, March 2, 2013
By Harry Threaders
This is absolutely amazing. Everybody should read it at least once.
Related Products
1. I Shall Not Hate 2. David Grossman – To The End of The Land 3. Tasting the Sky – Ibtisam Barakat 4. Ben White 5. Ilan Pappe 6. The Attack – Yasmina Khadra 7. Miko Peled – The Generals SOn 8. Peace not Apartheid – Jimmy Carter 9. Sharon and My mother-in-law 10. Miral – Rula Jebreal”
5 out of 5 stars A Lesson To Be Learned, March 2, 2013
By Draaks
This story is one that will stay with you long after you are through reading it. We follow Ichmad through his life from age 12 to age 60, and in doing so we feel all of his emotions. As Ichmad learns to cope and even put aside his hatred, I believe it can teach us all that no matter how dark things look, if you believe, then you can see light at the end. I won this from LibraryThing Member Giveaway and I highly recommend this book.
5 out of 5 stars A Tree of Peace, March 2, 2013
By Carolee
If you are interested in the Middle East, you need to read this book. The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti is a book that she felt had to write. She worked for five years to complete this story. It is fiction but it felt true. In fact, I found it very difficult to lay it down. I know so much more after reading this book than I did before. This is a serious book but also a hopeful one. Ichmad Hamid is unusually bright boy in mathematics and science. He learned to follow Einstein’s advice and do problems in his head to calm himself during crisis. He lived in a small village of Palestinian people with his parents and siblings. His father is a talented artist and extremely wise about people, war and forgiveness. If you had looked around the inside of his home at the beginning of this story, you would have seen many portraits and pictures done by his father of his family and different times in their lives. Amal, his younger sister innocently walked out the door of their house, into a field and was blown up by a landmine. They cannot bury her. Permits are needed by the Israelis to marry, to travel, to work, to build a home, to go to school to bury, to even buy fruit from was formerly their own trees. There is no freedom in occupied land. When Ichmad was only twelve, his father was imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit. His family was tear gassed out of their home by soldiers who said that they were terrorists. Sarah, one of his sisters tripped and hurt her forehead. Ichmad tried to breathe air into her but she died. The soldiers shot up the house with Uzis and then dynamited the remains. Everything was gone except for a lone almond tree that Ichmad had named Shahida or witness. His father was in the desert in a horrible prison. His mother was still like a child, not educated, bossy and very dependent. His brothers and sisters were all younger than him. How was this boy going to provide enough food to keep his family from starving? How was he going to protect them from the storms of nature and even worse the whims of the soldiers? How was he going to keep his promise to his father make something of himself? I wish everyone single would read this amazing book to be able to understand what it is really like to live in an occupied land. This book is one of hope, resilience and resourcefulness. I received this book from the Library Thing’s Member Giveaway but that in no way influenced my thoughts in this review.
5 out of 5 stars This noteworthy book is one that touches your heart with its exposed frankness, emotion and which is greatly affecting , March 2, 2013
By Lucinda
“…May the battles that we fight be for the advancement of humanity.” This remarkable story is one that comes from the authors inner core, crafted by her personal experiences that make this a raw, candid read that contains such poignancy and intensity as to really touch your heart. Michelle Cohen Corasanti is brave to bear her soul to the world, but it takes not only strength of character but determination to present to the world a `real picture of how things are and to push forward with ones own beliefs as a free human being. The Palestinian dominance within Israel is the central focus of this detailed, thought-provoking narrative as the author wanted to help bring about peace to the Middle East. I feel so privileged to be able to hold this extraordinary work of fiction within the palm of my hand, and to have the opportunity of exploring new things by these words that moved me to tears…hence I can honestly say that this book is quite special. One follows the story of Ichmad Hamid as he struggles through life in the knowledge that he can do nothing, and is utterly and completely helpless to save his friends and family. Living on occupied land his entire village operates in constant fear of loosing all that they hold most dear including their homes, jobs and belongings but most importantly each other. Ichmads twelfth birthday unknowingly to him is the catalyst for great change, as his world is suddenly & unexpectedly turned upside down…His father is imprisoned and his familys home and belongings are confiscated, amidst his other siblings soon succumbing to hatred in the face of great conflict. Ichmad then begins an inspiring journey using his intellect to try and save his poor dying family, and in doing so he reclaims a love for others that was lost through childhood violence, hence hope is kindle… This stunning story embodies the true meaning of love and selflessness, and that great fight that the main character goes through for trying to save all that matters to him in life. It shows readers the actual meaning of life by presenting to one, quite openly the horrors that take place within the far corners of this world and that as you read will take place whilst one contemplates upon this message. Sometimes one must fight for what they believe in, for what you deem to be right and just and for those that you love (consisting of your entire world). There is so much injustice, so much hatred in the world and the divide within social hierarchy is still widening constantly, as new leaders rule with different ideals and those who oppose them feel such wrath. This story really moved me, affected me deeply and which would strike a chord in all our hearts for regardless of whether we come from other continents, speak in different tongues and live by different cultures we all are united together due to the power of LOVE. This in effect is what makes us human and is our adversarys greatest weakness, for though we always strive for peace there is a war raging in another corner of the world. *I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the author for having her book on GoodReads as a `first-read giveaway.*
5 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT, March 1, 2013
By Handsome P
An amazing page turner.
5 out of 5 stars A story of hope amid despair, March 1, 2013
By Charles Ray
The Almond Tree, a first novel by Michelle Cohen Corasanti, starts with young Palestinian Ichmad Hamid watching his baby sister Amal blown apart by an Israeli mine planted near his familys farm. Despair builds on despair as his father Abbas is jailed as a suspected terrorist supporter, another sister is killed, and his brother, Abbas is crippled in a vicious attack. When Ichmad, a brilliant mathematician, wins a scholarship to a university where Arab students are in the minority, he encounters a Jewish professor, a man filled with hate because of his own familys persecution by the Nazis. But, both men learn to respect each other as individuals, and in their growing collaboration, despair slowly turns to hope. The Almond Tree traces Ichmads life from the squalor of Palestinian refugee camps to the ivory halls of American universities, as he and his new friend make advances in science, and, at the same time, develop as individuals. This is an amazing first novel finely crafted, and full of meaning. Its easy to casually dismiss it. Some would doubt that a Jewish writer could possibly enter into the mind of a Palestinian and make the reader see the fear, hate, love, despair, and hope that shapes his mind. But, Corasanti does just that. More importantly, she has capably described both sides in this long-standing conflict from a human perspective, a perspective that is all too often missing from other accounts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a better understanding of the human face of war. […]
Related Products
“Death From Unnatural Causes,” and “Dead Men Dont Answer” by Charles Ray
5 out of 5 stars The Almond Tree, March 1, 2013
By GrammyGeek
…life isnt about what happens to you, But about how you choose to react to it…Ichmad War and conflict lead 2 brothers, Ichmad and Abbas, down different life paths, both seeking the answers to the hatred and tragedies they have witnessed and lived through in their young lives. “The Almond Tree” by Michele Cohen Corsanti brings to light another of mans inhumanity to man. A riveting novel set during the Arab/Israeli conflict, “The Almond Tree” is a testament to the power of faith, love of family and education. Michele Cohen Corsanti has done a tremendous job of bringing realism to story of “The Almond Tree”. This is one of those books that is hard to take a break from and when you do, you cant wait to get back to it. Be advised, there are graphic details of the atrocities that take place. Note: I have received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
5 out of 5 stars Moving, March 1, 2013
By Sandy
The author makes this story live with vivid characters and events. You feel like you are neighbors or close friends with the characters. I know this book is fiction, but if what has and is happening over there is anything like the book, we should all be helping to find a solution for the problems there. The book is very readable, and once you start, you dont want to put the book down. Why is there so much hatred of one race, religion, what have you against another? I would recommend this book to anyone, except maybe young people, because of some violent deions. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
5 out of 5 stars Moving, March 1, 2013
By Sandy
The author makes this story live with vivid characters and events. You feel like you are neighbors or close friends with the characters. I know this book is fiction, but if what has and is happening over there is anything like the book, we should all be helping to find a solution for the problems there. The book is very readable, and once you start, you dont want to put the book down. Why is there so much hatred of one race, religion, what have you against another? I would recommend this book to anyone, except maybe young people, because of some violent deions. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
5 out of 5 stars The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti, March 1, 2013
By Teritree001971
From a devastating openning scene, which doesnt allow the reader to breathe, to a conclusion offerring a glimmer of hope, the reader is drawn in and unable to put the book down until the end. Action, adventure, life, death, love, heartbreak–The Almond Tree offers the reader an exciting adventure in the last place expected. If you are looking for a professional storyline with well developed characters and themes, this is the book for you. The characters are relatable and the reader can imagine their differing viewpoints, whether it is that of Ichmad Hamid or that of his brother Abbas. Even though the story was set in an environment I knew very little about, I had no problem seeing myself in the story along with the characters. I could imagine what Yasmine would feel as she left her country with no way of communicating for the first time. When I finished the book, I could see the different aspects of life Yasmine and Ichmad felt to be important, the wisdom of parents lost on youth until realised in the end. Throughout the story, the reader watches as Ichmad develops from a naive child to that of a gradfather, who finally starts to open his eyes to the world around him. The Almond Tree shows us how the things we choose to do or the way we choose to see events in our lives and respond to them, affects the world around us. At least download the sample of this book, you will not regret it.

One Response to “Article About The Almond Tree By Michelle Cohen Corasanti And 11 5-Star Reviews From Tower.Com”

  1. pimareporter March 7, 2013 at 14:27 #

    Reblogged this on The P.I.M.A. REPORT.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: