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The People of Forever Are Not Afraid: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 11, 2012

3.3 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Remarkable…Part of this impressive book’s power is that it manages to re-create and rupture that numbness, war’s tedium and the damage it does to memory, intimacy, thought and affection. At a time when so many of America’s best writers seem to be in retreat from realism, championing a return to genre fiction (zombies and ghosts, comic-book characters and thrillers), Boianjiu’s bracing honesty is tonic. It’s a tribute to Boianjiu’s artistry and humanity that she portrays those on both sides of the barbed wire as loved and feared. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid is a fierce and beautiful portrait of the damage done by war.” -The Washington Post

"A dark, riveting window into the mind-state of Israel's younger generation, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid marks the arrival of a brilliant writer." -Wall Street Journal

“With its blend of brutal hilarity and heart-stopping anguish, this is a brilliant debut novel.” The Boston Globe

“[Boianjiu’s] voice is distinct. It’s confident, raw, amusing — a lot like her women.”
—The New York Times

“Stunning…[a] beautifully rendered account of the absurdities and pathos inherent to everyday life in Israel.” –Los Angeles Review of Books

“Boianjiu’s searing debut…draws from the author’s own experiences to render the absurdities of life and love on the precipice of violence.” –Vogue
“In her riveting debut novel, 25-year-old Shani Boianjiu gives a rare insider glimpse at what it’s like to be a girl coming of age in the famously fierce Israeli Defense Forces.” –Marie Claire

“In this Bildungsroman, life in the army initiates a metamorphosis from girl to woman…Boianjiu’s depiction of…the psyches of these young women is fascinating… The prose [reads] alternately like a nightmare and a dream, but this feverish indecision is what gives it its power.” –The Economist

“This powerful novel follows three friends as they come of age in a village – and then are enlisted into the Israeli Defense forces.” –O, The Oprah Magazine

“That one debut novel to get excited about.” –New York Magazine
“Must-read.” –Harper’s Bazaar

“Boianjiu builds a deeply engaging narrative...and shows considerable range, creating surreal, absurd dilemmas for her characters...a promising start to Boianjiu’s career” —Jewish Book Council

“Eye-opening and brutally honest...In this gripping debut, [Boianjiu] weaves together the familiar coming-of-age milestones such as sexual initiation, the fierce bonds of friendship and the need for independence with the shocking realities of military life—even beyond the battlefield.” –Bookpage  

“[An] elegantly written debut novel…25-year-old Boianjiu, drawing on her own years with the IDF, has written the story of a people’s resignation to living in a world that’s been strange for so long, they can no longer remember how strange it is.” –The Forward

“An impressive debut…” —New York Post

“The extraordinarily gifted Shani Boianjiu has published a first novel that is tense and taut as a thriller yet romantic and psychologically astute….. Boianjiu writes with clarity about atrocity and the absurdity of endless war, but it’s her tender acceptance of human frailty that ultimately makes this novel so engrossing.” –More Magazine

“Boianjiu is clearly a gifted stylist and her first novel easily establishes her as a writer to watch.” —The Christian Science Monitor   

“[A] tour de force…Powerfully direct…wonderfully vivid…more than just another promising debut from a talented young writer, [The People of Forever are not Afraid] warrants our full attention.” –Malibu Magazine

“The much-anticipated debut novel from 25-year-old Shani Boianjiu zigzags between the stories of three high-school friends, Yael, Avishag, and Lea, as they leave their small village on the Lebanese border to take up posts in the Israeli army… glimmers of humor and insight flash brightly in what is a brutally dark novel." –The Daily Beast

“The People of Forever Are Not Afraid
provides a fine flavor of what Israeli military life is like for young women — no mean feat — and many of the episodes are engaging and revealing. Read it for that flavor and those stories.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books

“The novel resonates with considerable power…The People of Forever avoids melodrama; it is a novel of nuance and smart anti-climax…This isn't the constantly detonating Israel of American newspaper headlines. Actually, the country portrayed is a much more interesting and harrowing place. Its citizens and soldiers, we see, live in quiet expectation of calamity.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“It is incredibly rare and spectacular to find an author who possesses the literary talent to transport us so completely and persuasively to an utterly foreign realm.  First time novelist, 24-year-old Shani Boianjiu, has performed such a feat in The People of Forever Are Not Afraid (Hogarth/Crown, $24), her disturbing and provocative new book about the traumatic experiences of three young Israeli girls serving in the Israeli Defense Forces.” —The Jewish Journal

"In her complex, gritty first novel, Boianjiu portrays young women drafted into the Israeli army as they come of age. This is a great choice for literary fiction readers who can appreciate a thoroughly distinctive narrative voice.” — Library Journal, starred review

"Shani Boianjiu has found a way to expose the effects of war and national doctrine on the lives of young Israelis. So her subject is serious, but lest I make her work sound in any way heavy let me point out how funny she is, how disarming and full of life. Even when she is writing about death, Boianjiu is more full of life than any young writer I've come across in a long time." – Nicole Krauss, author of Great House and The History of Love

“[An] excellent debut novel…like Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? meets…The Things They Carried. Irreverent, sometimes touching and often deeply weird, we fell in love with Boianjiu’s voice from the first page. Bottom line? It sucked us in and carried us off at gunpoint.” Flavorwire.com

“This haunting coming-of-age story skillfully portrays the individual side of a war not often spoke of, much less written about. Destined to be an award-winner, this novel gives the reader a unique perspective of war and the devastation experienced by those fighting it.” –SheKnows.com

“The People of Forever Are Not Afraid is... carefully wrought, consciously structured, creatively imagined.” The New Republic

"[An] impressive debut.” —Publishers Weekly
“Readers will embrace the complexity of the writing.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Boianjiu’s debut novel chronicles the gritty, restless experiences of three young women during their compulsory service in the Israeli Defense Forces…The bold, matter-of-fact narrative…[mirrors] the complexity of a landscape in perpetual transition.” —Booklist 
“The term ‘a distinct new voice in literature” had became a cliché long before Shani Boianjiu was born, but there is no better way to describe her unique piercing tone. Reading it feels like having your heart sawn in to two by a very dull knife. The People of Forever are Not Afraid is one of those rare books that truly make you want to cry but at the same time doesn’t allow you to.” – Etgar Keret, author of The Nimrod Flipout

“This is big literature – the realism that nests inside the word surrealism.” – Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

“If anyone ever tells you the novel is dead, don't say anything, just give them this book. Shani Boianjiu is an enormous new talent. This is one of the boldest debuts I can think of---it reads like it was written in bullets, tear gas, road flares and love. I demand another book from her, immediately." – Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh

“I was hooked on Shani Boianjiu's remarkable voice from the first sentence of this book. It's urgent, funny, horrifying, fresh, the kind of thing I've been dying to read for ages.” –Miriam Toews, author of Irma Voth and A Complicated Kindness

“Boianjiu is a writer who should be talked about for literary reasons, not the least of which is that her stories refuse to submit to moral clichés.” -The Times of Israel

About the Author

Shani Boianjiu was born in Jerusalem in 1987 and grew up in the Galilee. She served in the Israeli Defense Forces for two years. She graduated from Harvard in 2011. Her debut novel has been published or will soon be published in 23 countries. It has been longlisted for the UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and selected as one of the ten best fiction titles of 2012 by the Wall Street Journal.  She is the youngest recipient ever of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 award. Her writing has appeared in the New York TimesThe New YorkerZoetropeVice, the Wall Street Journal, The Globe and Mail, Dazed and Confused, the Guardian and NPR.Com. She lives in Israel.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hogarth; First Edition edition (September 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307955958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307955951
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,086,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nathan Webster TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I reviewed this book because I was interested in a female writer's perspective on the military experience, and while this is obviously specific to the Israeli Defense Forces I think author Shani Boianjiu has crafted a universal story. I read this as a US veteran myself, and I think many of her character's reflect honest lives and experiences of any young soldier in any army - that might shock you as you read it, but I'm here to tell you that's the way it is. At times, her characterizations are some of the best I've ever read, particulary since a strong female viewpoint is so rare. It's strange that after 10 years of war here in the US, there's not yet been a US woman veteran who has done such a good job - but I'm sure one will arrive in years to come.

Since she is an IDF veteran, I'm assuming some - though I hope not all - of this book is drawn from her real life background and service. Her characters and situations are presented unsympathetically, and that's a good thing. These feel like real lives on the page, with all the frustrations of military and civilian life.

Her portrayal of Israel itself is also unsympathetic and honest. There is no heroism or greater glory, but regular people living in a grim situation, beset by enemies on all sides. Her characters seem past the point of caring anymore, and it makes sense why the border patrol or checkpoint duty is dehumanizing on all sides.

The book's narrative jumps around, and lesser characters jump in and out without much introduction or explanation. It's difficult to follow the timeline, and I found myself flipping back and forth to remind myself what was going on. Individual scenes and moments are very powerful, but taken as a whole I found it didn't always connect together.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The People of Forever are Not Afraid" follows the lives of three high school girls, Yael, Avishag, and Lea as they develop through their adolescence and into young soldiers and back again to civilians. I had never before read a book about women in the Israeli army and appreciated learning about their experience. I hope that more authors write about a smiliar topic, as it would be nice to compare and contrast the stories of the three women in Boianjiu's book to the experiences of others.

The book starts by letting the reader know about the worries faced by the high school girls, such as the loss of a crush which happens to also be the loss of a sibling. The girls have different experiences in the army ranging from being a firearm instructor to a checkpoint guard. They witness horrific events during their service and experience horrific events, such as rape. Leaving the army changes them forever and their aspirations change from being grand to simply driving a car to serving as security in the Tel Aviv airport. Additionally, their army experiences causes them to better understand and relate to their family members who served before them.

Boinajiu's stream of consciousness and figurative style sometimes added to the book's narrative but other times detracted from its clarity. I couldn't always tell whether Boinajiu was recounting a real event, such as standing at a checkpoint, or an unreal event, such as pouring gasoline on a man's foot because the man allegedly poured gasoline on an olive tree's roots. Perhaps both experiences were real or not real. Also, I found it difficult to follow the lives of the three girls and understand why they did or did not act in certain ways.
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Format: Hardcover
The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by young Israeli author Shani Boianjiu, is a novel about three Israeli girls, their coming of age in a little town in Northern Galilee, service in the female infantry battalion of the IDF, and their life after army service. The novel is built of short stories told in turn by each of the main characters about themselves, their parents and friends. Some stories are well composed and have an interesting tale to tell. They have the feel of newspaper reporting from an army base, or from an army post on Egyptian border were days of boredom can turn deadly in an instant. One of the stories People That Don't Exist turned recently into sad reality when on 09/21/12 an Israeli soldier was killed when the Israeli Egyptian border was breached by Islamist militants (see the reportage from Egyptian border, by The New York Times from 09/22/12, page A6).

Stories like Checkpoint and Means of Suppressing Demonstrations will be classics. Other stories, like The After War, are surreal, confusing or plainly immature. Because of this the book is uneven and can easily frustrate a reader who is looking for a pleasant swim toward the happy end.

What make the stories so distinctly Israeli, are the monologues and dialogues written in IDF slang. It is dynamic, rough, vulgar, macabre, and as undisciplined as the Israeli Army itself. The bubbling teenager immaturity fortified by funky Arabic expressions of the slang is easily understood by Israelis but notoriously difficult to translate. Boianjiu wrote the novel in English (not her mother tongue) and is often quite good at conveying the grit and brashness of the slang. But sometimes translation fails, leaving the reader confused by unexpected profanity of misunderstood idiomatic expression.
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