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House of Windows: Portraits From a Jerusalem Neighborhood [Paperback]

Adina Hoffman
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 12, 2002
A brilliant and moving evocation of the rhythms of life (and the darker shadows below it) in a working-class quarter of the world’s most fascinating and divided city.
In the tradition of the literature of place perfected by such expatriate writers as M. F. K. Fisher and Isak Dinesen, Adina Hoffman’s House of Windows compellingly evokes Jerusalem through the prism of the neighborhood where she has lived for eight years since moving from the United States. In a series of interlocking sketches and intimate portraits of the inhabitants of Musrara, a neighborhood on the border of the western (Jewish) and eastern (Arab) sides of the city–a Sephardic grocer, an aging civil servant, a Palestinian gardener, a nosy mother of ten–Hoffman constructs an intimate view of Jerusalem life that will be a revelation to American readers bombarded with politics and headlines. By focusing on the day-to-day pace of existence in this close-knit community, she provides a rich, precise, and refreshingly honest portrait of a city often reduced to cliche–and takes in the larger question of identity and exile that haunts Jews and Palestinians alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author and her husband, Peter, moved to Jerusalem from the United States a decade ago, soon after she completed college, in an attempt to "test the bonds and limits of our American home." But unlike many of her contemporaries who write about themselves, Hoffman refreshingly ignores her inner world in favor of the geography and personalities in one neighborhood in the ancient and much fought over city of Jerusalem. It's her experiences with her neighborsAand their fascinating historiesAthat distinguish this expatriate's work. Some of those experiences could occur in any city, as when a neighbor who is still a virtual stranger thrusts all of her valuables on them to safeguard when she goes on a short trip. But others could only happen in Jerusalem: discussions with a fish-stand operator who describes his childhood in Morocco and his immigration to the Jewish state; an impromptu, "bittersweet" visit with a Palestinian family on a trip to Jordan; and a neighborhood battle with Orthodox Jews who want to cut down trees to make way for a religious school. At times, as in the latter case, Hoffman's American sensitivities may seem a bit extreme, but to her credit, she doesn't take herself too seriously. The writing in this debut book by the film critic for the Jerusalem Post is as poignant and layered as the subjects she writes aboutAand by detailing the ways history and culture play out in the day-to-day lives of the residents of one of the world's most contentious cities, she adds nuance and complexity to a much-studied subject. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Hoffman, an American who has settled in Jerusalem, is the film critic for the Jerusalem Post. Her first book uses the colorful neighborhood where she lives, Musrara, on the border between East and West Jerusalem, as a way of introducing her readers to the rich variety of life in contemporary Israel. Originally a well-to-do Arab neighborhood, Musrara became the home of poor Moroccan Jews after 1948. Although many Moroccans still live there, the neighborhood is now more diversified and beginning to gentrify. Hoffman captures its essence in a series of portraits: a Moroccan Sephardic grocer, a Palestinian gardener, a multilingual retired fishmonger from Casablanca, and a nosy mother of 10. Her sketches of daily life in Musrara not only depict a changing community but also raise the issues of identity and exile. Jerusalem beyond the travelogues and the headlines. Barbara Bibel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (March 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767910192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767910194
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,865,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real Life in Jerusalem November 11, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
One of the many things I hate are books about foreigners who come to Jerusalem and through exploring the city find themselves. "The Book of Windows" is most definitely not one of those horrid books. Yes, Ms. Hoffman is a newcomer to the city, but the lovely book she's written is not one of neurotic American soul-searching but a minutely crafted portrait of a couple of streets she lives in that just happen to be in Jerusalem. Of course, as a Jerusalem resident I recognize the stories she tells as possible only in Jerusalem and nowhere else in the world. But Ms. Hoffman doesn't try to make any of the characters or events she so evocatively describes stand for anything except for themselves - there are no cheap attempts to turn the everyday occurrences of a tiny neighborhood and its residents into either "The Story of Jerusalem" or "The Story of Adina Hoffman". Instead, Ms. Hoffman has given us a series of small events which constitute the daily drama of living in Jerusalem: meeting the neighbors, food shopping, planting a garden. There are no earth-shattering revelations here, but the quiet, steady rhythm of real life which is far more satisfying and enjoyable.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive Essays of Life in Jerusalem October 24, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
"House of Windows" is a marvelous book which I have recommended to everyone I know who has ever started life over in a new place - or who has visited or lived in Israel, where these essays take place. Hoffman's every word is important and forms a fabric rather like a tapestry. In an appealing personal and affectionate way, Hoffman shows us her own feelings of vulnerability and humility in relations with her neighbors. Her intelligence and sensitive observations and conclusions are admirable - and quite enjoyably readable.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars House of Windows is low keyed, poetic, important April 7, 2001
Format:Hardcover
I read this book a month ago and it had a calming effect on me. I think the writer intended this, intended to slow life down, even life in Jerusalem, which is not a slow moving city. She succeeds in drawing us readers slowly into a world she found, but one suspects it's also a world she made. Look for the next book by a talent that is bound to grow.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Softer Jerusalem June 2, 2001
Format:Hardcover
I read this book while visiting Israel last summer. It is gentle. The writer has a poetic soul and now, reading it from USA, it gives us a vision of Jerusalem that isn't at war, a nice image if unfortunately not a true one-- not now. But there is a lyrical rhythm to this book that I recommend. 4 Stars.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved every word! January 18, 2001
Format:Hardcover
What a beautiful, intimate, touching book...humorous and sometimes lonely, sad and deep. I almost couldn't believe I could not look out of my window and see Ms. Hoffmann's neighbors in the garden, or go to the grocer in search of olive oil just before sunset on a Friday. And beautifully published too, with little photographs beginning each section. It will stay by my bed to read again.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different View of a Familiar City October 22, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is a fascinating view of a neighborhood very different from what Americans have come to expect in pictures of Israel. Adina Hoffman writes about her mostly Moroccan neighbors with subtlety, perceptiveness and even humor. They live behind walls in a sort of village, a section of the city most visitors don't see, where life is rich and full of vigor on the one hand, and frustrating and sometimes even dangerous on the other. Although the writer is a film critic, her essays aren't about movies, but her eye is as sharp as a film maker's and I felt like I saw "Musrara" very clearly. This is a very satisfying collection by a sensitive and attentive writer.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Window into a fascinating world October 20, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I could not disagree more with "readernyc"! I hope that the reader is aware that this book is a work of non-fiction, where plot, per se, is not the purpose. The book is full of stories and characters -- real live characters vividly and sympathetically portrayed. I found Hoffman's descriptions evocative and powerful. This book provides a far more realistic portrait of life in Israel than does the evening news. But it is more than a story about a Jerusalem neighborhood and the people living side by side there. It is about simultaneously being an insider and an outsider, it is about challenging one's initial judgments of others and of the unfamiliar, and it is about understandings one's context. I highly recommend this book!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acute Eyes and Ears in a Jerusalem Neighborhood October 22, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I loved this book. It made me want to move right into AH's neigbhorhood, so I too could get to know the wonderfully moving characters that inhabit this book. However, I wouldn't take it all in with her acute eyes and ears, so I'll just wait expectantly for her next book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars too slow
I have gotten to page 74 and decided that I will not read any further. The author begins well enough to create a general feeling and mood about the neighborhood that she has moved... Read more
Published on April 30, 2010 by Frances 287
1.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, politicized
Adina Hoffman and her husband, Peter Cole, engage in provocateur activity and utilize racist imagery in their confrontation with a local yeshiva. Their concern? Read more
Published on September 5, 2007 by Elisheva Gesher
1.0 out of 5 stars Biased Portraits
Ms. Hoffman is admittedly an eloquent writer, eager to show us the virtues of being above a "tribal" identity in contemplating the varied people that she lives among. Read more
Published on January 20, 2005 by Shoshana
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing, although.....
It's great writing, it uses many wonderful words and sentences. Although after about the 13th (to be exact) page, it seems to become unimportant. Read more
Published on April 26, 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars An Introverted Treasure
I read a review of Ms. Hoffman's book in Passionfruit, a travel magazine and that's why I bought it. At first I thought it was slow going, but hang in there, readers. Read more
Published on June 29, 2001 by Emma Gold
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Bad she didn't have a Larger Publisher
Unlike her fellow Jerusalemite, David Horovitz, Hoffman knows how to poetically render the city of lights. She is a fine craftswoman, might well have been or become a fine poet.
Published on June 14, 2001 by "ssteinnycread"
3.0 out of 5 stars A little Boring but good
I lived in Jerusalem and what I liked most there was how lively and friendly everyone was. That aliveness is not inside this book. Read more
Published on June 2, 2001 by "caseyhar"
1.0 out of 5 stars Wait for the Paperback
This is one of those books that you start, get to page 20, pick up, start again, essentially with no better results. I did get most of the way through it, with skimming. Read more
Published on October 30, 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterful literary work!
House of Windows is an eloquent and deeply insightful narrative of life in a diverse Jerusalem neighborhood. Read more
Published on October 25, 2000 by "kswansonm"
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