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Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.

Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora

Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora - Emily  Raboteau

This fascinating and powerful memoir took me to places I didn't know I wanted to go and considered questions I didn't know I had. When author Emily Raboteau visits her lifelong best friend at her new home in Israel it sets Raboteau off on a ten year quest to find a homeland of her own. With a black father and white mother giving her an appearance that made it difficult for people to classify her, Raboteau often had the sense that she didn't fit in anywhere. She became intrigued with the idea of a black Zion, or homeland, and that led her first back to Israel to visit the Beta Israelis, Jews from Ethiopia with a long religious tradition who are renamed and re-educated when they immigrate to Israel, and also a community of African American Israelis who have lived for decades in the Negev Desert .


After that she travels to Jamaica to understand more about the culture and beliefs of Rastafarians, Ethiopia to see the settlement created there by Jamaican transplants who are convinced Ethiopia is their promised land, and Ghana to talk to African Americans who relocated there seeking connection with the continent of their ancestors. Raboteau is deeply curious about these peoples, why they moved where they did and how they feel about it now, and this book provides a mesmerizing inside look at their subcultures. She treats everyone she meets with sincere respect, but doesn't gloss over or ignore their shortcomings and inconsistencies--for instance in Ethiopia it's the Jamaicans who are colonizers and they don't always treat the locals well, in spite of their own experience of colonization.


The book ends with Raboteau visiting her Hurricane Katrina displaced relatives in the American South, where she tours sites of the Civil Rights Movement and again considers questions of what makes a home. I learned a lot reading this book, and enjoyed the journey immensely. As an added bonus, Raboteau has a wonderful way with words, deftly picking out details to set a scene or describe the many people she met in her travels.