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Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me Hardcover – July 3, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First Edition edition (July 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809094827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809094820
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“[Pekar’s] message here is important—that a good Jew asks tough questions, that a history of oppression requires us to be more conscious of the oppressed.”
—David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

“This posthumous publication reflects the seminal graphic memoirist at his edgy best.”
Kirkus (starred review)

“[T]his posthumous work by Pekar functions as a multipronged exploration of religious, political, and personal histories and is all the richer for it . . . A sweet and simple epilogue by Pekar’s widow, Joyce Brabner, provides the perfect capstone.”
Publishers Weekly

“This is not only Pekar’s greatest work, but probably the most powerful use of his talent for plainly speaking truth to power and ignorance. JT Waldman masterfully captures the wry innocence of Harvey’s interrogation while still celebrating the subtle contours of modern American Jewishness.”
—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Life Inc. and Program or Be Programmed

“A fascinating history of the so-called Promised Land—as seen through the eyes of an estranged Jew from Cleveland. Brimming with classic Pekar asides and details, the book sheds light on a subject often obscured by heat. JT Waldman’s evocative artwork combines down-to-earth American Splendor–style illustrations with motifs inspired by everything from mythology and Islamic art to illuminated manuscripts and Chagall. I never got to say goodbye to Harvey, but reading this book was like having a final conversation with him.”
—Josh Neufeld, American Splendor artist, and author and artist of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

“Pekar peppers accounts of perpetual persecution with poignant autobiographical anecdotes in this concise, compelling, and sure-to-be controversial graphic history of the Jewish people and the state of Israel. JT Waldman’s art, juxtaposing realism with ancient styles, rocking exquisite mosaics and elaborate medieval and Middle Eastern design flourishes, is nothing less than a majestic tour de Schwartz.”
—Jeff Newelt, Heeb Magazine comics editor, and editor of Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland

Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me is Harvey Pekar’s final exploration of his conflict over the history of Israel, as illuminated by JT Waldman’s protean art. This is their Jewish Book of Hours.”
—Dean Haspiel, artist of The Quitter and Cuba: My Revolution

“One part history lesson, one part autobiography, and all Harvey Pekar, Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me is an insightful look at one of the burning topics of our time. With Pekar’s scholarship and humor and JT Waldman’s stylistically varied art, this graphic book is visually entertaining and highly informative.”
—Peter Kuper, artist of The Metamorphosis

About the Author

Harvey Pekar is best known for his graphic autobiography, American Splendor, which was based on his long-running comic-book series and was adapted into a film of the same name. He died in 2010.


JT Waldman is an artist, interactive designer, and comic-book creator. He is the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Megillat Esther. He lives in Philadelphia.


Joyce Brabner is an award-winning author of graphic books. She frequently collaborated with her late husband, Harvey Pekar, on his American Splendor series. She lives in Cleveland.

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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It is informative and engaging.
Generically, you could say it's a graphic novel, but it's also, really, a tapestry, an assemblage, a curated work of designs.
In the way that only a book like this can possibly convey.
James Robert Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This short book, only 172 pages, is presented in the uniquely personal Pekar comic book style and has many of the trademarks of Harvey Pekar's graphic format: controversial with a direct, often aggressive and angry stance about life and...in this case... Judaism and Jewish identity. And, of course, there is Pekar's take on Israel.

Pekar's views about Jewish nationalism and even the existence of God differed greatly from his parents. Some readers are sure to be outraged about his conclusions - as can be the case with books focused on religion.

Illustrator JT Waldman and Pekar are shown discussing Jewish history as they roam through Cleveland, Ohio. They touch on a huge variety of topics ( especially for such a brief book), including Zionism, Pekar's attempt to emigrate to Israel, Palestinian history and more. In addition to the main material, there is also a fascinating epilogue written by Pekar's wife, Joyce Brabner.

I think it is important to note that Illustrator JT Waldman is not just a minor part of this memoir. He is also listed as a co-author of Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me as well as a significant figure in the narrative. That raises some questions about the complexities of co-authorship when one author dies before a book's publication.

Based on the information I found, this book was a work in progress, not fully completed before Pekar's death in 2010. So it was impossible for me to read it without wondering if he would have been satisfied with Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me in final form. It definitely seems abbreviated, a bit rushed, to me. But perhaps he would have left it that way.

The book is bound to offend some readers - not unique for works by Pekar.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dan Duffy on August 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Here is another of the books Harvey put in the can before he checked out. Standing in the used bookstores and public libraries where he did his literature review the great ethnographer of diasporic Cleveland tells the story of Israel. His account is fine if you don't already know it but the added value is the author. Mom was a Communist who broke with Stalin only after he backed Nasser. Dad was religious. Harvey looked into making aliyah after our navy kicked him out because he couldn't learn how to roll socks. The rabbi cousin who repeatedly advocated for young Harvey as he struggled then turned on him for reciting the facts of the nation, the stuff that every Israeli Defense Forces planner knows. I got the last of fifteen copies at the bookstore near Duke where the clerk told me an instructor has ordered more to teach this fall. I suspect that any Dukie who reads this book with the independence of mind Harvey teaches will fail the course but I don't know that. My hope is that as we all speak to each other more candidly the fairy tales of nationalism and the false hopes of anti-colonialism will perish. Harvey's widow Joyce ends the book with a heartbreaking postscript about burying her Jew.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By 44488 on July 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
And who would ever refer to him by his last name? His rhetorical style has always been based on an implied first-person intimacy with the reader, which in his best work communicates a deeply-felt emotion, vulnerability, and intelligence.

And this, his last work, is among Harvey's best, perhaps his most complex and substantial long-form story since "Our Cancer Year." The book is similar to much of his later work in that Harvey combines the evocative sense of quotidian existence that constituted the primary focus of "American Splendor" with an exploration of a "larger" topic. A historical, political, and utterly personal meditation on the past and present state of Israel and the Jewish people is a match made in heaven, so to speak, and Harvey makes the most of it. "Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me" is seriously informative for the 99.9% of us who are not experts on Jewish and Middle East history, and Harvey's personalized interpretation of those histories is simultaneously prickly and utterly, heartbreakingly reasonable.

This is also perhaps the most brilliantly, beautifully illustrated work of Harvey's long career. J.T. Waldman is a witty, thoughtful "on-screen" participant in the narrative, and his artwork is creative, beautifully conceived and executed, and entirely complementary. Ever since the early work with Robert Crumb, Harvey's best writing has been presented most successfully by artists who GET him, and Waldman's contributions here really earn him the co-author credit.

Finally, while it may be true that Harvey died before this book was entirely in the can, I found the main narrative's relative irresolution in keeping both with the complexities of the issues being confronted here and with Harvey's realist aesthetic.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By James Robert Smith on October 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pekar was the same insightful, searching, critical thinker even toward the end. I liked his previous posthumous graphic novel, CLEVELAND, but there was something missing from it. While it was a fine work I didn't see much of Pekar's personality shining through the just-the-facts format of that one.

This book, however, is swimming in Pekar's vibes. It was great to read the words right out of his mouth again. In a way, he's still with us. In the way that only a book like this can possibly convey.

The sour grapes one-star reviews here come from people blinded by their conceits and prejudices. This is a priceless volume and I'm so happy to see it in the light of print, and to have purchased a copy.
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