‘Abulhawa goes to great lengths to highlight the universal desire of all people for a homeland. Furthermore, Abulhawa’s compassion for American victims of 9/11 and for those who suffered in the Holocaust illuminates what it means to be humane and spiritually generous. The Pennsylvania-based Abulhawa, herself Palestinian, has crafted an intensely beautiful fictionalized history that should be read by both politicians and those interested in contemporary politics. Highly recommended.’
Editor, Library Journal
As is typical for an author, Abulhawa is on a book tour which usually entails a reading and a book signing. It’s the “bread and butter” of the book biz and is usually pretty non-controversial. Unfortunately, in this case, because of the content of the book and apparently the author’s Palestinian ancestry, one of her scheduled readings at a Bayside, NY Barnes and Noble has been “reduced” to a book signing.
Barnes and Noble, by way of explanation, talked candidly of author safety and a seeming need of “sensitivity” to the Jewish community.
These reasons are problematic and somewhat self-canceling. Where would the threats to author safety (and free speech) most likely come from? Some element of a Jewish community that Barnes and Noble needs to be sensitive too?? And which part of the Jewish community, in a part of the world where Jews are hardly voiceless, must be treated with so much “sensitivity” that they require a author’s reading to actually be canceled? Indeed, in addition to obvious American free speech protection, it is not difficult to claim that such a silencing goes against culturally and religiously foundational Jewish notions of discussion and inquiry.
Indeed, although a seemingly small matter, (Abulhawa has other readings lined-up), this is a highly unusual action that goes to the heart of free speech in the US.
We don’t know what was said to Barnes and Noble, nor does it matter. Barnes and Noble needs to be taken to task for making such a terrible decision. (contact info).
It’s almost impossible to imagine Barnes and Noble taking the same action with someone like Daniel Pipes, who regularly makes explicitly racist remarks about Moslems and attempts to limit free speech on US campuses.