Sadness Is a White Bird

A Novel

Sadness Is a White Bird

“Nuanced, sharp, and beautifully written, Sadness Is a White Bird manages, with seeming effortlessness, to find something fresh and surprising and poignant in the classic coming-of-age, love-triangle narrative, something starker, more heartbreaking: something new.” —Michael Chabon

“Unflinching in its honesty, unyielding in its moral complexity.” —Pulitzer Prize–winning author Geraldine Brooks

In this lyrical and searing debut novel written by a rising literary star and MacDowell Fellow, a young man is preparing to serve in the Israeli army while also trying to reconcile his close relationship to two Palestinian siblings with his deeply ingrained loyalties to family and country.

The story begins in an Israeli military jail, where—four days after his nineteenth birthday—Jonathan stares up at the fluorescent lights of his cell, and recalls the series of events that led him there.

Two years earlier: Moving back to Israel after several years in Pennsylvania, Jonathan is ready to fight to preserve and defend the Jewish state, which his grandfather—a Salonican Jew whose community was wiped out by the Nazis—helped establish. But he is also conflicted about the possibility of having to monitor the occupied Palestinian territories, a concern that grows deeper and more urgent when he meets Nimreen and Laith—the twin daughter and son of his mother’s friend.

From that winter morning on, the three become inseparable: wandering the streets on weekends, piling onto buses toward new discoveries, laughing uncontrollably. They share joints on the beach, trading snippets of poems, intimate secrets, family histories, resentments, and dreams. But with his draft date rapidly approaching, Jonathan wrestles with the question of what it means to be proud of your heritage and loyal to your people, while also feeling love for those outside of your own tribal family. And then that fateful day arrives, the one that lands Jonathan in prison and changes his relationship with the twins forever.

Powerful, important, and timely, Sadness Is a White Bird explores one man’s attempts to find a place for himself, discovering in the process a beautiful, against-the-odds love that flickers like a candle in the darkness of a never-ending conflict.
  • Atria Books | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501176265 | 
  • February 2018
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Sadness Is a White Bird includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

In this lyrical and searing debut novel, a young man is preparing to serve in the Israeli army while also trying to reconcile his close relationship to two Palestinian siblings with his deeply ingrained loyalties to family and country.

When Jonathan moves back to Israel after high school, he is eager to join the army and defend the Jewish state that his grandfather helped establish. But Jonathan is also conflicted about the possibility of having to monitor the occupied Palestinian territories, a concern that only grows more urgent when he meets Nimreen and Laith, the twin daughter and son of his mother’s friend.

From that winter morning on, the three become inseparable, caught in a whirlwind of passion and connection. Jonathan is forced to confront the suffering of his Palestinian friends and their families under Israeli rule, leading him to question his loyalties. As he is pulled in different directions, he must grapple with what it means to be just one person in an epic historical struggle with so much at stake. And then that fateful day ar see more

About the Author

Moriel Rothman-Zecher
© Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

Moriel Rothman-Zecher

Moriel Rothman-Zecher is an American-Israeli writer, poet, and novelist. Born in Jerusalem, he graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in Arabic and political science. A recipient of a 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellowship for Literature, his work has been published in The New York Times, Haaretz, and elsewhere. Moriel lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio with his wife, Kayla, and their dog, Silly Department. Read more at TheLefternWall.com and follow him on Twitter @Moriel_RZ.

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