Empathy: Why I Write What I Write

the lemon tree

Black Lives Matter (Abdo 2015). Hidden Human Computers (Abdo 2017). What Are Race and Racism? (Abdo 2017). 
Twelve books since 2014 and 3 of them are about race.  And don’t forget my book on the Dakota Access Pipeline.  As a society, we tell ourselves that that is all about the environment and energy but it too is about race.  
I never set out to write about race.  I’ve got a background in anthropology and history.  I want to write about people past and present, history and society and culture. That means that I end up writing about race, but that’s okay because I’m seeing again and again just how important that is.  
The book club I’m in read The Lemon Tree, adult nonfiction about Palestine.  It tells the story through the experiences of a Muslim man and Jewish woman who lived in the same house. His father built it. Her family bought it after his “abandoned” it. His story was about the Israeli government busing the Palestinians out of the area and then forcing women and children to march across the desert to their new homes.  
This was the first time that many people had heard the Palestinian side of the story.  They were shocked that I had heard it before.  And they didn’t react well to hearing it.  The book was clearly biased and anti-Israeli.  
In truth, I’d say the book was pretty balanced but it isn’t a pretty story.  When you are very used to hearing only one side of a story, a balanced portrayal sounds bad.
What we need in books and cinema and all types of media and art are more balanced portrayals.  We need to hear them and see them until we can look someone in the eye and say “Yes, that was bad” without trying to make an excuse.  
Is it odd that I write about race?  I don’t see how I can avoid it and still write honestly about history, culture and society.  



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s