This book made its way to me via a friend. I am not sure if she ever turned a page or if she was just drawn to the title; which alone makes you think of wonderful poetry or someone asking big questions. Those “big” questions serve as a thesis for the book. In fact, you could say that the entire book reads like a thesis paper. This alone made this a very hard book to follow or enjoy.
Thesis papers by definition are scholarly works. They are filled with obscure references, quotations/research supporting the author’s point of view, and an endless list of citations. This particular book was a work of comparative literature. Unfortunately, this was unknown to me before I cracked the spine. I was left flipping the pages, as the author referenced two sources of content I had never read before.
Every book should begin with a thesis. It is a simple idea of what you would like to accomplish before the conclusion. In nonfiction stories and scholarly work, that thesis should be easily identifiable to the reader. It should be a roadmap for those on the receiving end to follow. The thesis of “Who Shall Command the Skylark Not to Sing?” wasn’t easily identifiable nor was it easy to follow. With that said, let me draw out a couple of themes that emerged while reading.
Our author spends considerable time drawing a comparison between slavery in the United States and the occupation of Palestinian lands in and around Israel. He uses two authors to make his point about the crisis. Now, I have to admit something here. What I know about the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is what the news tells me. I have never spent much energy researching either group, digging into the history of the conflict, and/or conversing with those impacted by the continued bloodshed. What I do know is this; throughout the span of my life, these two sides have been at odds. Their battles have been bloody and violent. Thousands have died, because of disputed territories. I also know the United States has spent an enormous amount of time trying to broker peace between the sides.
Our author contends that Israel now treats the Palestinians in the same fashion as American slave owners treated their “subjects.” This is a bold statement. It is a lot to swallow and digest. American slaves were bought, sold, and treated as property. They weren’t seen as humans and were often forced to toil in fields while succumbing to brutal conditions. They were whipped, beaten, and tortured. They weren’t free to vote, own land, move freely, or speak freely; they weren’t granted the rights so essential to the idea of America. I don’t know if the comparison is the same. I am not educated enough on the subject to either argue for or against the thesis, but I would like to believe if Israel was that oppressive we would know about it. Which it to argue for a media that fully informs us, which is also a hard pill to swallow.
The other major theme that emerged for me while reading this book was Israel itself. Growing up in a Southern Baptist home, Israel and Jerusalem are planted in your head at an early age. It is the Promised Land. It is home to the Jews (God’s chosen people). It is where Jesus walked. It will take center stage when the world comes to an end. What is often missing from that conversation, is what happened in the Middle East after the final books of the Bible. You aren’t taught lessons about the invading Romans, The Muslims, the Crusades, or the historical implications of the world’s three major religions claiming pieces of its land as their holy sites. This information is paramount, if you want to fully understand the region. Unfortunately, this is information I lack and reading this book made it painfully obvious. Which is why with the turn of the final page, I promised myself that I would do my best to learn more. I am moving forward on that promise in an effort to draw better opinions. Also, the history is too tempting and central to current world affairs.
So, should you read “Who Shall Command the Skylark Not to Sing?” Yes, if you are familiar with the authors who are referenced throughout the book, comfortable with comparative literature, and have a foundational knowledge of the Middle East. If you can’t answer yes to all three of those questions, then I would say, not yet.
Be good to each other,