Customer Reviews: My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century
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on March 29, 2009
You might think that a biography of a poet who writes in Arabic of whom you've never heard is not a book you need to read. But in the case of "MY Happiness . . ." you'd be wrong. That's because this is, in addition to being a satisfying biography of one man, the best introduction I can think of to Palestinian and Israeli history since the 1930s. With an astounding command of documents in at least three languages (Arabic, Hebrew, English) in archives all over the world, and based on interviews with both Palestinian refugees and the Israeli soldiers who ousted them from their homes, Adina Hoffman has pieced together an immensely convincing and refreshingly unbiased account of how a place changed from being the homeland of one people to the homeland of another. It is so specific, so filled with detail and first-hand accounts that it reads more like a novel than a biography. Taha Muhammad Ali himself is an immensely likable if unlikely poet, and Hoffman resists the impulse, endemic to literary biography, of trying to convince us her subject is "major." She is content to convince us of his interest as a poet, his greatness as a human being, and the complexity of his fate. Adina Hoffman lives in Jerusalem and, with her husband, a translator and poet, runs a small press that publishes poetry from the Middle East. Her own writing is wonderful.
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on June 18, 2009
Like the poet whose life and times she evokes, Hoffman is interested in the human side of things: the touch and texture of places to which neither modern-day Israelis nor the poet himself can return; the intricate delicacies of human interaction that make the poet, his family and their history the worthy subjects of such a meticulously researched biography. Imbricating sources which range from Israeli military documents to old 1930s newspaper microfilm to records kept by the British to local literary journals to oral histories shared by Palestinians, Hoffman has performed painstakingly thorough and balanced research on a life and times-- this is no mere biographical sketch of a single poet-- which is edifying and inspiring at once. Without a hint of cliche or the kind of demonizing of either side that are all too common in narratives from this part of the world, Hoffman achieves in her book exactly what has made American audiences of all stripes stand mesmerized by the poet, Taha Muhammad Ali. Together with Muhammad Ali's poetry (Never Mind, published by Ibis Editions, and So What, Copper Canyon Press), this book should be read by anyone who wants to feel (and not merely hear in sound-bytes) this part of the world, from up close.
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on June 19, 2009
I loved reading this gracefully written book. A traditional art form - the life and times biography - at its best. With wisdom, grace and clarity, Adina Hoffman introduces her readers to the lived experiences of an individual man, and also the people -- Palestinians and Israelis -- who surrounded him, in tormented times. I felt introduced to a world I had not previously known. Tucked into the political story is a subtle literary history of Palestinian poetry that opens up new cultural understandings. More, my comprehension of the tragedies of Israel/Palestine has been sharpened by these pages; I predict that "My Happiness..." will make readers across the political spectrum stop in their tracks and reconsider some of their assumptions. This is an eloquent book that makes an ethical difference.
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on May 25, 2011
This is the biography of a Muslim poet who makes his living selling Christian trinkets to Jews. It illuminates our American misunderstanding of the history of Israel and Palestine in a manner that is accessible, even-handed and fascinating. Unless you are a poet or English teacher, you may find yourself skimming the sections on poetry, but no matter, this is a book well worth reading.
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on July 2, 2009
Adina Hoffman has written an extraordinary book. Its presentation of Palestinian poet Taha Ali Muhammad is vivid, thoughtful, and incisive. It is filled with subtle understandings of a person and his history, from village life to his intellectual context. Adina takes us deep into the Palestinian village of Taha's childhood. We follow the poet, steeped in the ancient oral culture of his people as he first encounters the written word as a boy; a magically drawn portrait. From this exquisite encounter, Taha takes a sustaining portion into the years ahead, of exile in his own country. It is an important part of a story in which written and spoken accounts of the same events diverge so greatly. Adina does both extensive interviews and digging into the written record. She is unflinching in her search to understand what happened when one people came to establish a homeland and encountered another already calling that place home. Adina delves into the complexity of the Middle East while capturing the essential humaneness of Taha's writing. For a deeper understanding of this as yet to be known literature and this area of the world, make time to read this remarkable book.
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on February 15, 2014
I am enjoying reading this book for the impartial content, the author's clear, well-written style and thorough investigative endeavor. I recommend it highly to readers.
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on September 22, 2013
I'm not a poet and I'm not a historian, but Adina Hoffman is a genius! I could not put the book down!
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on July 1, 2015
I received the shipment from this store earlier than promised. The book was exactly as advertised: New (never read). Excellent. Thank you.
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on July 19, 2015
Part of the family heritage in text. The book should be titled tears of Sufuri.
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on May 20, 2013
I thought the text was well written, but was disappointed that more of the poets work was not shared in the book.
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