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Crossing Mandelbaum Gate

Nonfiction: Memoir / Personal Memoirs
Unabridged   16 hour(s)
Publication date: 05/12/2010

A Daily Beast “Best Book” Pick

Crossing Mandelbaum Gate

Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Audio CD ISBN:9781611741490
Digital Download ISBN:9781615730988


This is Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kai Bird’s vivid memoir of a childhood spent in the midst of the Arab-Israeli conflict in Jerusalem and Saudia Arabia, and a personal account of three major wars and three decades of political upheavals in the Middle East.

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Product Description

Through a blend of memoir and history, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Kai Bird recounts the Western experience in the Middle East and just why it has been so turbulent. Through Bird ’s Zelig-like presence, the reader experiences the Suez War of 1956, the June 1967 War and the Black September hijackings of 1970 that led to the Jordanian Civil War. Bird ’s memoir also shows how all of these momentous events led to the rise and tragic downfall of a secular Arab nationalist ethos—only to be replaced by the rise of a fundamentalist, politically reactionary Islamist movement.

In narrative history Bird tells the stories of such illuminating figures as life-long Jerusalem resident George Antonius, author of The Arab Awakening, and his charismatic wife; Jordan ’s King Hussein and his CIA connections; the businessman Salem bin Laden, Osama ’s older brother and a family friend; Saudi kings Faisal and Khalid; President Nasser of Egypt; and Leila Khaled, the striking young Palestinian radical who hijacked one of the Black September planes.

Bird ’s personal insights and unique connections create a portal into the sensibilities and psyche of these lands that is sure to fascinate both those fluent in the history of the Middle East and the many who simply want to understand this region The West seems to be both fighting for and against.


“Engaging miniature portraits of overlooked characters and events. . . . Succeed[s] succeeded in explaining the perspectives of two peoples who view the Middle East conflict through different lenses.“
     —The New York Times

“Bird’s acute and engaging memoir is a mournful recollection of a time when the single issue of Arab and Israeli, Muslim and Jew, was not the monotonously dominant theme that it has since become. . . . He is adroit, modest, ironic, and amusing. . . . Bird puts me somewhat in mind of Edward Said’s memoir, Out of Place.”
     —Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic

“A compelling hybrid of memoir and history . . . kaleidoscopic and captivating.”
     —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“There is no better way for a foreigner to begin to understand the newly partitioned Jerusalem of 1950 than to read of Bird’s earliest memories.”
     —Christian Science Monitor

Author Bio

KAI BIRD is a journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. Most recently, he co-authored with Martin J. Sherwin the 2005 biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Knopf). American Prometheus won both the 2006 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. Bird is a frequent book reviewer for the Washington Post, The Washington Monthly and many other publications. He is presently living in Kathmandu with his wife Susan Goldmark, who is World Bank Country Director for Nepal, and their son.