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Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland Paperback – March 12, 2013

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Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland + The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine + The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press (March 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158005482X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580054829
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Pamela Olson's insightful, sometimes shocking, but always deeply human account of the Palestinian reality should be read by anyone who wants to get beyond the myths and misconceptions around the Palestinian struggle. The effortless narrative is driven by encounters with ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, people sometimes as confused as the rest of the world about their reality. But Olson is clear in laying out the stark truth of dispossession, oppression, and outright racism imposed on the Palestinians—insights all too lacking in news reports and political debate."
Chris McGreal, The Guardian

"A moving, inspiring account of life in Palestine that's enormously informative yet reads like a novel!"
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace

"It's love in the time of occupation as Pamela Olson . . . takes us on the emotional roller-coaster of her very personal experience of life in Ramallah. . . A charming book brimming with tension and tragedy, but also with the humor, warmth, everyday foibles and irrepressible hopes of a people determined to live free."
Tony Karon, senior editor of TIME Magazine

"Part adventure story, part searing reportage, part love story, and wholly absorbing."
Dr. Kenneth Ring, co-author of Letters from Palestine

"Pamela Olson leads the reader on an exciting, funny, at times heart-wrenching journey, carefully deciphering complex political and historical issues. Olson is a talented writer, intelligent and exceptional in her ability to convey both tragedy and hope, remaining morally grounded and refreshingly honest."
Ramzy Baroud, author of My Father was a Freedom Fighter

"As an Israeli whose life was shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I found Fast Times in Palestine moving and refreshing. Pamela Olson comes to the Middle East with a blank slate and is therefore able to hold up an undistorted mirror to the reality she encounters."
Miko Peled, author of The General's Son

"Harrowing, funny, vivid, entertaining and deeply humane, Fast Times in Palestine opens a rare window into Palestinian life. It’s impossible not to be moved on nearly every page by Pamela Olson’s account of the plight of a stateless people struggling to live with dignity under a mind-boggling 48-year military occupation. Yet Olson also shows us the warmth of a people who, despite their circumstances, display a 'preternatural friendliness and curiosity' in an 'enviable place to call home.' Read this book; it will change everything about the way you see the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians."
Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree

"This is a story by a very smart and fundamentally decent woman who visits Palestine for the first time knowing little about what she will encounter there. Of course, she learns quickly about the horrors of the Israeli occupation and what it means for the local Palestinians. Fast Times in Palestine is Pamela Olson's attempt to describe the indignities and brutality of Palestinian daily life, and try to make sense of it all. What makes her story so compelling is that she tells it in an honest and straightforward way, not by relying on hot rhetoric. For anyone who wants to learn the truth about life under Israeli occupation, this book is a superb starting point."
John J. Mearsheimer, author of Why Leaders Lie

“…the strength of the narrative lies in Olson’s investigation of the personal and mental effects of oppression and war on herself and her newfound friends…Where paradox is as common as breathing, Olson discovers a kind of freedom amid the barbed wire. An empathetic, intriguing memoir.”—Kirkus Reviews

"More than a travelogue or a polemic, the book is a coming-of-age story, as Olson discovers her voice by directly confronting the challenges of living in a state of institutionalized paradox... Engaging and easy to read, this is a fascinating memoir."—Publishers Weekly

"An ultimately heartwarming story about an American who learned to love a country and a people despite the trauma of the brutal, decades-old conflict she witnesses occurring around her."—Library Journal

About the Author

Pamela Olson lived in Ramallah for two years, during which she served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s 2005 presidential campaign. She’s published stories and articles in CounterPunch, Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Israel’s Occupation Magazine, and The Stanford Magazine, and she also wrote an essay about disputed holy sites for the Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. She lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

This book is an easy and compelling read.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to learn more about the occupation.
Ms. Olson does a fantastic job presenting a very complex situation in a very human way.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Adara on February 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
Before I read this book, I didn't have a stance on the conflict because I didn't know enough. My family is Jewish and very pro-Israel, but I am agnostic and I try not to form opinions without facts, so I have always taken everything they say with a grain of salt. "The Palestinians don't want a state. They don't want peace. They won't be happy until every Jew on the face of the Earth is dead." This is what I grew up with.

But this book opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed: the world of occupied Palestine. I consider myself very aware politically, so it's hard to believe the truth has eluded me for so many years. Never underestimate the power of the media, I guess. I get my information from a decent variety of sources, but when all those sources are deliberately hiding so much information, how is a person supposed to know any better? The media portrays Palestine as the aggressor in the conflict, and speaks of the government as if it represents the feelings of the general population. What I really appreciate about this book is not just that the author tells the other side of the story, but that she makes a point of separating the government and the people.

It is too easy to generalize, and I could see a person reading this book and turning their hatred toward Israel as a whole if the author had not taken such extreme care to depict every person she encountered as a human being. Yes, Israel is the oppressor and Palestine is the oppressed, but to leave it at that is black-and-white thinking. Citizens of Israel aren't anymore aware of the treatment of Palestinians than American citizens are of the treatment of Iraqis. I especially appreciated this author's reference to Dr. Philip Zimbardo's prison experiment, and the "power of the situation.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Raanan on February 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
Olson has a very important story to tell, and she does so from the very unique "accidental tourist" perspective. It is a very well written piece that documents (mostly) Palestinian daily life through her personal experiences, as well as explaining some past events (which is a potential mine field as in this Israeli-Palestinian conflict the "past" can often be a more divisive and controversial issue then discussing the present or even possible solutions).

I should mention that I am an Israeli. Reading this book wasn't always easy and I didn't always agree with what Olson had to say. Nevertheless, I think she does an important job by holding a mirror to our face and telling us what the occupation means for the Palestinians. And by doing so she actually helps both sides to get a better understanding of the other.

No doubt some so-called "pro Israel" folks will scream against this book. After all it is critical of actions and policies Israel made over the years. Unfortunately many of those actions were made possible because "friends" provided Israel with the monetary and political support to implement them. True friends can also tell you when you're doing wrong, and stop you from causing disasters to yourself and others.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Pat on February 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
Having lived in the West Bank myself for a while, I was taken aback at how well Olson manages to convey the surreal feeling of the region during the Second Intifada. She manages to do it by showing how day to day life continues despite the "situation". It's a perspective that's long overdue. The other canny skill that she seems to have is blending genuinely informative material with the human driven narrative of the story. It's totally unconventional - and works incredibly well to both inform and entertain. I've not seen anything quite like it before.

I'd recommend this book as essential reading for anyone that wants to avoid the cliches and learn about what it's really like to live in occupied Palestine.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By E. Aab on February 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
Reading Fast Times in Palestine has been the most accessible and enjoyable way I've yet found to understand the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ms Olson makes it clear how tempting it is to generalize -- to pick a side in the conflict, to cast blame, to burn with hatred. Yet she relentlessly resists generalizations. She instead consistently personalizes the conflict.

Her masterful descriptions brought me there with her: one day you are picnicking among the ancient olive trees, the next crammed like cattle in a checkpoint queue, the next waiting for a text message from a detained friend.

I started the book as Ms Olson did -- as an American who knew nothing about the conflict, not intending to care much. Yet the stories of people Ms Olson met unfold, like her, I found myself wanting ever more to know more.

Beyond the conflict, it's a remarkable story of a woman who lives an improvised life. She starts the book with the quote from "Impro" by Keith Johnstone: "There are people who prefer to say 'Yes,' and there are people who prefer to say 'No.' Those who say 'Yes' are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say 'No' are rewarded by the safety they attain." Ms Olson gives us the best of both worlds: the adventures of a young woman who never fails to say "Yes, and...", all from the safety of our reading lamps.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Pamela Olson grew up in small town Oklahoma and studied physics and political science at Stanford University. After graduating, she realized to her surprise that she didn't want to be a scientist after all and instead began bartending, saved money to travel, and landed unexpectedly in Palestine, where she became a journalist and foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate.

Her website is

After returning to the US, she worked at a think tank in Washington, DC, trying to bring what she had learned to the halls of power. Eventually she became disillusioned, dropped out of the Beltway crowd, and began writing a book called Fast Times in Palestine, a chronicle of her searing education in the Holy Land and the incredible adventures she had along the way. It was published by Seal Press in March 2013.

She's currently working on a sequel called Palestine, DC, about the "special relationship" between the US and Israel, the rift between Hamas and Fatah, the assault on Lebanon in 2006, the situation in Gaza, and several other topics for folks who read Fast Times and wish to dig a little deeper.

Her writing has also been featured in the International Herald Tribune, CounterPunch, Israel's Occupation Magazine, Mondoweiss, and The Stanford Magazine among other publications.

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