Daily Archive – September 2nd, 2017

Ronit & Jamil… & my disappointment

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I usually don’t write about books I didn’t love. I get very uncomfortable using my (modest) platform in a negative way, or even a less than positive way. But I feel like I need to make an exception in the case of Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin.

I was so excited about this book. The subject matter spoke to me on so many levels that I was almost bursting at the seams when I got it.

Ronit & Jamil is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (get it?) set in present-day Israel. In this version, the star-crossed lovers are an Israeli daughter of a pharmacist and the Palestinian son of a doctor. And the whole story is told in verse or poems written by the protagonists.

I want to be clear: I didn’t hate this novel, I was just disappointed with it.

I wanted Ronit & Jamil to be amazing. I wanted it to move me and make me think. Sadly, it did not.

I mostly just felt that Laskin was hindered by the narrative structure she chose. The subject matter is so dense and so charged that a series of poems felt like a disservice. There is only so much a person can related in 14 lines of rhyming couplets.

I also felt, too often, that Laskin’s personal voice and politics weaseled their way into the text, making it difficult to believe the characters.

But I think the thing that was most upsetting to me was that it was clear in the writing that she was not actually from the region. She did a lot of research, that was evident. But you could tell she didn’t really know. It was in little things. It was in Ronit only knowing one Israeli singer, and it being the one who sings in English. In was in Ronit living in Ma’ale Adumim and saying it’s in the West Bank (regardless of whether it is or not, no one who lives there would say that). It was in Jamil quoting classic Muslim poets but no contemporary ones. At a time when so much emphasis is put on diversity in publishing, on authors of colour writing characters of colour, it felt out of place to have an outsider write something that requires an insider’s understanding.

I felt that Laskin skimmed the surface of a subject that deserved much more. Her book left me starving for more and I am eager to find it. We need more stories like these, stories that acknowledge the difficult reality we live in but recognize the glimmer of hope. But we need these stories to dig deep, to go the extra mile and represent the issues, we can’t just slap flowery language on the ugly bits and call it a day.

So no, I didn’t love Ronit & Jamil. But (!!) I urge you to read this book. You can do it in an hour (though that is another issue I have with it). Read it with an open mind and then please tell me what you think. And if you feel so moved, do me a favour and write your own version on our Write It blog because we need more stories about this and things like it.

Get Job-Ready, Recent Grads

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Hello my recent grads! With school just around the corner for everyone but you, you’re bound to be thinking about your next steps! NPower Canada is a non-profit organization that provides free industry-certified IT skills training, career development, and life skills support, as well as paid internships and job placement opportunities for underserved youth who have an interest working in technology. If this sounds like the kind of opportunity you’ve been waiting for, check out the application process here! Remember, no prior IT knowledge or skills are necessary. Good luck, and good luck with your futures!