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Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora Hardcover – January 8, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120038
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"In this profound and accessible meditation on race, novelist (The Professor’s Daughter) and scholar Raboteau depicts her travels from Israel and Jamaica to Africa and the Deep South in search of the elusive African-American notion of “home.”" Publishers Weekly

From Booklist

"Part political statement, part memoir, this intense personal account roots the mythic perilous journey in the writer’s search for home, in the U.S. and across the globe... sure to inspire intense debate about the search for meaning." —Booklist

More About the Author

Emily Raboteau (b. 1976) is the author of a novel, The Professor's Daughter, and a work of creative nonfiction, Searching for Zion. Her fiction and essays have been widely published and anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Tin House, The Oxford American, The Guardian, Guernica, The Believer and elsewhere. Honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the MacDowell Colony. An avid world traveler, Raboteau resides in New York City where she teaches creative writing at City College, in Harlem.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 54 customer reviews
I agree with another commentator that this rich book deserves a second read.
Joan Lester
SEARCHING FOR ZION: THE QUEST FOR HOME IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA by Emily Raboteau (2013, 350 pages) is a most compelling, fascinating and absorbing read.
E. Hernandez
If you've ever felt alienated or exiled, or wondered who you are or where you might fit in, this book will speak to you.
Louis N. Gruber

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. Hernandez VINE VOICE on February 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
SEARCHING FOR ZION: THE QUEST FOR HOME IN THE AFRICAN DIASPORA by Emily Raboteau (2013, 350 pages) is a most compelling, fascinating and absorbing read. Raboteau, a writing teacher at City College in Harlem, explains her personal, painful journey through our world in a quest for her own identity, her own "home".

Perhaps seeking something she can never get from her distant black father (one of America's most prominent professors of religious history) yet completely ignoring her white mother, New Jersey-born Raboteau starts us with her journey to see her childhood best friend, a devout Jew living in Israel. Raboteau ended with the painful shock of trying to get into Israel at all - she looked too Arab. Once there, she was hurt by the suffering of both the Palestinians and the Jews.

It was strange to see Raboteau's photo all over the net. She looks just like my baby sister: white as a sheet, black hair, deep brown eyes. I have seen a photo of one of her brothers, who looks just like my four brothers: black except with mocha skin. Raboteau herself is as painfully white as I am, contrary to her self-described "wooden spoon" complexion. I know how that feels, not wanting to be quite so pale one day, wondering whether I am really all that pale another day.

This color-confusion makes no sense, and Raboteau never found any answer for it. She would find in Israel she was often mistaken for an Arab; in Maine, close to her native New Jersey she felt what it was like to be purely black since "there are no blacks in Maine"; in Jamaica, probably the most hypocritical place on the planet, she felt what it was like to be despised as "white" (which she technically is according to her skin color).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an astoundingly powerful memoir that is in fact much more than a memoir. To say that it educated me in many areas about which I previously hadn't a clue, including the culture of reggae music and Rastafarians, the existence of Beta Israel, and a great deal of the history of parts of Africa, is just the beginning. In addition, Raboteau brought into clearer focus some recent events with which I have personal connections, such as the Civil Rights marches and boycotts in Alabama (we were teaching at Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University from 1966 - 1974). And then of course there is the vivid description shared in the last section of the book concerning Hurricane Katrina as viewed through the eyes of her cousins.

What I believe Raboteau has accomplished most in superlative style, however, is to share a tremendous diversity of cultural, sociological and spiritual insight not only with keen and vivid observation and lyrical description, but also without losing a sense of balance and reality. She neither glosses over defects in the various circumstances, characters and situations she describes, nor does she become critically judgmental. She "tells it like she experienced it", and leaves the readers to enter with her into the immediacy of the experience or not, as they see fit. The characters she introduces us to are real and fascinating people, not stereotypes in any sense of the word.

The book does indeed leave me a bit breathless and amazed that this young woman was brave enough to investigate all those various cultures, many in states of upheaval and even violent transition, by herself. Never having been a particularly intrepid adventurer, I doubt if I'd have even begun a similar Odyssey. However, although at times she left me feeling a bit white-knuckled, she also left me with a profound sense that I'd enjoyed a valuable opportunity for an enriching glimpse of a vibrant world quite far from my own.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By KIM on February 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author is a 30 something African American woman who grew up as middle class in NYC with two educated parents. Her best friend from childhood is a white, Jewish woman. These biographical facts are critical as they set the tone for why this author seems to be searching for some answers as to where she belongs. Emily feels lost, an outsider, and even more so after she visits with her friend who moves to Israel. It is there that she discovers a black diaspora ("people settled far from their ancestral homelands"). Thus begins Emily's travels to Ethiopia, Ghana, Jamaica, and the American South.

I found her story confusing at times. She interjected history and interrupted her personal journey often. This was jarring. There was lots of dialogue with the locals, but often the dialogue had no point or tie in to her quest for answers-at least I did not see any as a reader. The book was disjointed, vague and dispassionate. When the author finally ends up in the deep South, towards the end of the book, we finally get some connection. It is here that she visits family and her own history, and as readers we see a culmination of all her travels and the emotional feelings that are exposed by the quest for answers. It is also at the end of her journey that she focuses on her own family, and this helps the reader to connect to her story better.

The biggest weakness in this book is that the author's telling is mediocre and she does not convey to us emotionally what this struggle means to her. Her message is lost from the start.
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