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Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land Hardcover – April 7, 2015
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“An astonishing story related with admirable talent. Tolan offers a skillful mix of reportage with heart bursting inspiration; the kind of mix that informs while awakening compassion and hope . . . In this way, Children of the Stone is a book to be studied as well as enjoyed. It should be savored, shared and argued about. Perfect material for a reading group.” ―Huffington Post
“Eye-opening . . . Tolan's exhaustive research and journalistic attention to detail shine through every page of this sweeping chronicle.” ―Publishers Weekly
“[Tolan] portrays the multigenerational Israeli-Palestinian conflict by focusing on the life and musical abilities of one youngster, Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan, and his family and friends . . . This is an engrossing and powerful story, moving skillfully amid the failure of the never-ending battles and 'peace' talks between Israel and Palestine and the determination of one brave young man to change his world.” ―starred review, Booklist
“A resolute, heart-rending story of real change and possibility in the Palestinian-Israeli impasse.” ―Kirkus Reviews
"Tolan has made his reputation writing in-depth, reconstructive journalism about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Here he looks at a moderately successful effort by Israeli Danial Barenboim and the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said to create an orchestra comprising Israeli and Palestinian musicians. . . It could stand as a metaphor for the enduring conflict and efforts to resolve it." ―Best Books of 2015, St. Louis Dispatch
“A non-fiction account that reflects one individual's belief in the power of music and culture to transform lives. His story is proof of the famous words of Margaret Mead--'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.'” ―Yo-Yo Ma
“Somewhere amidst the separation barriers and the countless checkpoints, the refugee camps and the demolished homes, the fruitless negotiations and endless conflict, there is a people yearning for a life of dignity and normalcy. You won't see them on TV or in many newspapers. But you will find them in The Children of Stone, Sandy Tolan's moving account of the dispossessed children of Palestine, and the transformative power that music has had in giving them meaning and reason for hope.” ―Reza Aslan, author of NO GOD BUT GOD and #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestseller ZEALOT: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS OF NAZARETH
“Children of the Stone is alive with compassion, hope, and great inspiration. It is not necessary to believe in music's power to defeat evil in order to be enchanted by this wonderful story.” ―Tom Segev, Israeli historian and author of ONE PALESTINE, COMPLETE
“Sandy Tolan's narrative artistry fuses the coming of age of a talented, ambitious, and fiercely dedicated musician with the story of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories conquered in 1967. A major contribution to our understanding of who they are and essential to a political resolution of the conflict.” ―Joel Benin, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Professor of Middle East History, Stanford University
“Sandy Tolan has produced another gem on what is happening under the surface in Palestine. The book contains enthralling biographical trajectories of ordinary people fighting against the odds. Written in the style of investigative journalism, the book is riveting and uplifting, without skirting issues of contestation and controversy.” ―Salim Tamari, Professor of Sociology, Bir Zeit University (West Bank) and author of YEAR OF THE LOCUST
“[Children of the Stone is] a symphony of international locations, big ideas and human dramas . . . a deeply moving parable of struggle and mastery--over an instrument, over painful injustice and ultimately over self.” ―Newsweek
"Sandy Tolan sympathetically lays bare the stresses behind the monolithic WEDO façade, as musicians whose off-stage lives couldn't be more different--comfortable affluence for the Israelis, poverty and hardship for the Arabs--find themselves in entrenched opposition in their stances over the West Bank occupation." ―The Independent
"[A]mbitious . . . Tolan excels as a dogged reporter, and his musical descriptions amplify his core themes." ―Truthdig
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
It was one of the most well researched books I've ever read. About 25% of the book is notes regarding source materials. Tolan (who's actually a man despite the first name Sandy) goes to great lengths to document his research. He spent quite a lot of time in Palestine interviewing people and experiencing what he documents first hand. He truly immersed himself in the struggle in order to understand and then write about it.
I thought that book was incredibly well balanced. Tolan writes like a journalist and it reads like a 315 page newspaper article (from the BBC). The emotions he portrays are well explained with history, personal trauma and personal thoughts all combined in a coherent way that allows you to understand the motives behind why people were behaving the way they were. Truly you could see both sides to every conflict, even Israel's perspective though he does not skirt around the issue of power and international funding.
He does not cover the Israeli perspective in much depth, but it is clearly beyond the scope of the book. He does make effort to point out that because every Israeli is required to serve for two years in the military, no one is truly innocent or oblivious.
Tolan touches on how the culture of Palestine affects their response and I found myself thinking about how terrorism as a response has been more of a retaliation than I understood. So many people groups accept their oppression and while I'm not supporting terrorism, it makes you wonder why this response has been so poorly understood. There are some parallels here to the Revolutionary War. He does explain that most Palestinians did not support violence and I did appreciate the shift to non-violent means at the end.Read more ›
If I have a criticism it's that the detail is so tight and specific, and storytelling so immersive, that I had to set the book down for days at a time. I was overwhelmed by the information on one end, and the intense personal story on the other.
While I think Tolan has done a great job of being objective to all sides in this conflict, in the end my sympathies stayed with the Palestinians. For all the mistakes of their leadership, the average citizen of Gaza or the West Bank is given no break - between the Palestinian informers and revenge killings, and constant threats from the Israeli police and military, there is no way to keep their head down and move forward. The attempt by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim to bring a musical common ground works - sort of. But the musicians are never able to separate their nationalities enough to find complete common ground with each other.
I can't help but compare it to the US. Here, we face no day-to-day threat from anyone, except the boogeymen we've created in our minds, and yet we're still irrationally afraid of some faceless Islamic threat. In Israel, acts of violence are a legitimate risk. If we see how crazy we've gotten with NO threat, it's understandable - though not excused - how Israel has decided to behave so vengefully. Any student of history knows that most of the techniques used by Palestinians today were first used by Zionists fighting the British occupation. Meet the new boss, and all that.Read more ›
Yet Sandy Tolan's courageous and eloquent account of the Palestinian boy Ramzi and how he, with the help of many others, gave meaning and hope to Palestinian children by teaching them to play musical instruments and perform, is deeply inspiring. It also reveals that Israelis and Palestinians can cooperate in actions for the good of both people - if only the extremists on both sides had such a mindset!
CHILDREN OF THE STONE focuses upon the true story of Ramzi Aburedwan, who grew up under restrictive conditions in a Palestinian refugee camp. Like many Palestinian children, he witnessed other children being killed, and knew many adults who were also maimed or killed by Israeli weapons. Young Ramzi protested the occupation by throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. A famous photograph of him as a child throwing stones received considerable publicity worldwide.
Fortunately, when Ramzi was still a child he was given the rare opportunity to learn the viola. His love of music and dedication to developing his skill led him to eventually receive scholarships to study music in the U.S. and France, and later to perform with the West-Eastern Divan orchestra of Daniel Barenboim. Argentinian Israeli Barenboim was devoted to maintaining an orchestra that included Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Moving story of Ramzi, boy with a stone, who grew up to play viola and start music schools for Palestinian children. Chance to learn history and effects of ongoing occupation. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Miriam Kishi
Most compelling true story, told in Mr. Tolan's usual excellent style. Great read!Published 3 months ago by Nancy Martin
this a beautiful, informative and sad book not to be missed. at is well researched and a true story. would make wonderful movie.
All Del Mar, Ca
Most obvious is the power of music: to heal, to inspire, to bring joy, to build camaraderie among people otherwise enemies. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ann Turpin
Slow moving but interesting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the politics of that region.Published 5 months ago by Jean S. Young
Interesting look at life from the point of view of besieged Palestinians,
but it was much too long. Read more