Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A flight of fancy

I've got a few minutes to continue my last thought.

What if Palestine's Children were chosen as the book to be promoted to a whole city's population, to all read one month, with all the concurrent events and activities at libraries and so on that usually go with this? The mind boggles. Millions of people, or even a fraction of that, tens of thousands, let's say, but lots of them young, let's say, for these reading campaigns are generally aimed at high schoolers above all, anyway lots and lots of folks, many of them young, reading a wrenching story that portrays through fiction the reality of what the creation of the settler state of Israel meant for that place's indigenous inhabitants, the Palestinians. It would be like the biggest front-page newspaper exposé ever. I haven't explicitly addressed the power of fiction, and I will, although not today, but I don't think there can be any doubt of what a massive, sudden, shocking dose of new information this would amount to.

From there we can extrapolate what the potential might be. Once people knew. Once the official version had been overthrown via the heartrending story of Said and Saffiyah. What the potential might be to get people to take the next step. To act. In solidarity with Palestine.

It will not happen. There's not a city in the country that would tiptoe anywhere close to Kanafani's fiction. Not a chief librarian or English Department chair or arts center coordinator who would dare, I don't think. But what if there were a librarian, or a teacher, or a community center staffer, or a writer, or just a reader or group of readers, who would take the bold step of proposing such a thing? What if someone wrote a letter to a big city's arts commissioner, or wrote an Op Ed, or found a way onto a radio show, and said, hey, I just read a great book and I think we should make it the choice for next month's One City, One Book?

What if, in other words, there were a way to build a struggle around this simple demand? That the people of this city should have the right to know about and read this book? Would it be a mere provocation? Would it get a hearing at all, anywhere? Would it at least get the word out about this great book that everyone who cares about justice and liberation should read?

These are flights of fancy. I know. I'm not proposing fiction as itself a vehicle of struggle. At least I don't think I am. I do think more and more, though, that literature is, can be, should be, one weapon in the arsenal.