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Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora Hardcover – January 8, 2013
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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).Read more ›
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.
After that she travels to Jamaica to understand more about the culture and beliefs of Rastafarians, Ethiopia to see the settlement created there by Jamaican transplants who are convinced Ethiopia is their promised land, and Ghana to talk to African Americans who relocated there seeking connection with the continent of their ancestors. Raboteau is deeply curious about these peoples, why they moved where they did and how they feel about it now, and this book provides a mesmerizing inside look at their subcultures. She treats everyone she meets with sincere respect, but doesn't gloss over or ignore their shortcomings and inconsistencies--for instance in Ethiopia it's the Jamaicans who are colonizers and they don't always treat the locals well, in spite of their own experience of colonization.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A compelling and incisive work, Emily writes poignantly of living in state of ethnic limbo as mixed-race woman in America and her global search for community. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Deborah Lloyd
I read Searching for Zion in short bits each night over a week while I walked my baby to sleep in the ergo. I actually wished he would take longer to fall asleep! Read morePublished 14 months ago by Amanda Gibson
Soul searching book. Emily Raboteau's journey searching for Zion was spell bounding. From Jerusalem to Kingston to Addis Ababa to Kenya. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Howie
I highly recommend this book but its conclusion seems to be that there is nowhere in this world that black Americans are wanted, and welcomed, as citizens, the way Jews are in... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Salome
I bought this book for myself and I bought another copy for a friend and we both love this book. Highly recommend.Published 21 months ago by Stephen H.
Emily Raboteau is a powerful, fresh new voice in the burgeoning memoir subgenre that concerns us all - a search and understanding/reckoning of who we are and our places in the... Read morePublished 22 months ago by NaughtiLiterati
Excellent book! It gave me different perspectives of how Emily view her world and I can see the maturity and its progress in the book.Published 23 months ago by Dorothy M. Wilkins
The author, Emily, is an Africa American woman in search of herself, and her place in the world. With 1 white parent, she has never felt that sh "belonged" anywhere. Read morePublished on November 21, 2013 by hasselaar