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Ronit & Jamil
Cover of Ronit & Jamil
Ronit & Jamil
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Pamela L. Laskin's beautiful and lyrical novel in verse delivers a fresh and captivating retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that transports the star-crossed lovers to the modern-day Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ronit, an Israeli girl, lives on one side of the fence. Jamil, a Palestinian boy, lives on the other side. Only miles apart but separated by generations of conflict—much more than just the concrete blockade between them. Their fathers, however, work in a distrusting but mutually beneficial business arrangement, a relationship that brings Ronit and Jamil together. And lightning strikes. The kind of lightning that transcends barrier fences, war, and hatred.

The teenage lovers fall desperately into the throes of forbidden love, one that would create an irreparable rift between their families if it were discovered. But a love this big can only be kept secret for so long. Ronit and Jamil must face the fateful choice to save their lives or their loves, as it may not be possible to save both.

Pamela L. Laskin's beautiful and lyrical novel in verse delivers a fresh and captivating retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that transports the star-crossed lovers to the modern-day Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ronit, an Israeli girl, lives on one side of the fence. Jamil, a Palestinian boy, lives on the other side. Only miles apart but separated by generations of conflict—much more than just the concrete blockade between them. Their fathers, however, work in a distrusting but mutually beneficial business arrangement, a relationship that brings Ronit and Jamil together. And lightning strikes. The kind of lightning that transcends barrier fences, war, and hatred.

The teenage lovers fall desperately into the throes of forbidden love, one that would create an irreparable rift between their families if it were discovered. But a love this big can only be kept secret for so long. Ronit and Jamil must face the fateful choice to save their lives or their loves, as it may not be possible to save both.

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About the Author-
  • Pamela L. Laskin is a lecturer in the English department at City College of New York and directs the Poetry Outreach Center. A published poet and author, she has written several poetry chapbooks and children's books, including Homer the Little Stray Cat, and short YA stories for both Sassy and Young Miss magazines. She is currently a Colin Powell fellow and a SEED grant recipient for Poetry Outreach, and she has received three RF CUNY grants for completion of creative work. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine This contemporary take on ROMEO AND JULIET moves the action to Israel and Palestine and tells the story of the star-crossed lovers in verse. The sparse yet lyrical text proves a significant challenge for all of the narrators, especially Nira Amiel and Assaf Cohen, who tackle the roles of the young lovers. The voices of the poems are extremely similar, and Amiel and Cohen fail to enliven them with additional personality. The narrators' use of accents creates a strong sense of place, but extremely regular pacing deflates any potential drama. Laskin quotes liberally from Shakespeare's text and from Middle Eastern poets, but without vocal inflection to clearly delineate quotations, the text sounds cluttered and occasionally nonsensical. E.C. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 28, 2016
    Laskin (Homer the Little Stray Cat)
    creates a resonant contemporary version
    of Romeo and Juliet, transporting Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers to modern-day Gaza. Ronit, a Jewish Israeli teen, meets Jamil, a Muslim Palestinian, through their fathers, a pharmacist and doctor. Though both families work together to help the needy in Palestine, they don’t fully trust the other and are particularly wary of their teenage children talking to each other, much less falling in love. Writing in clipped, understated verse, Laskin borrows lines from the original play as she sensitively describes two lovers weaving their way through social, political, and familial hurdles designed to keep them apart (“I hate the parting/ the sorrow of it/ the fear/ tomorrow will never come”). Laskin takes pains to address the similarities between the Palestinian and Israeli households—two back-to-back poems titled “Dinner Chatter” reveal parallel menus (“Ommi’s good food:/ hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush.... Imah’s good food:/ hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush”) and attitudes—starkly juxtaposing them against mutual prejudices. A lyrical message of peace and love radiates from this relevant and hopeful reimagining. Ages 13–up. Agent: Myrsini Stephanides, Carol Mann Agency.

  • School Library Journal

    January 1, 2017

    Gr 7 Up-Poet Laskin's short, lyrical novel in verse is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in present-day Jerusalem. Ronit is an Israeli girl whose father, Chaim, is a pharmacist, and Jamil is a Palestinian boy whose father, Mohammed, is a physician. Chaim supplies prescription medications to Mohammed's patients. The two teens first meet at the clinic where both their fathers work, and, as in Shakespeare's original, the young lovers fall for each other after meeting only briefly. Through secret texts and clandestine meetings, they desperately try to be with each other while facing opposition from their parents and the very real physical barrier between Israel and the West Bank. The story departs from the original, though, with the implication that Ronit and Jamil will escape the conflict and find a way to be together-an underlying message of hope for the larger Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Laskin frequently quotes Shakespeare's play as well as Arab poets, including Rumi and Mahmoud Darwish, and makes skillful use of Middle Eastern poetic forms, such as the ghazal. It may occasionally be difficult for readers to tell which character is speaking, but the accessible verse and universal questions about crossing cultural lines make for a quick and powerful read. VERDICT An obvious choice to pair with Romeo and Juliet in a literature class, this can also open discussion about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and about bridging cultural boundaries.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    November 15, 2016
    A timeless tale of star-crossed love set amid modern-day conflict.Laskin's novel in verse takes forbidden teen love a la Romeo and Juliet and sets it in present-day Israel. She portrays the Montagues and Capulets as Jews and Arabs, casting Ronit as the daring daughter of an Israeli pharmacist who falls for Jamil, the alluring son of a Palestinian doctor. What gives this contemporary reprise its ironic edge is that while the protagonists' fathers work together and routinely set aside political differences in the service of healing the sick, their ingrained cultural prejudices prevent them from accepting that their beloved children have fallen for each other. Laskin is at pains to show how similar the teens are: they've been raised on the same foods--"hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush"--and both wish to buck convention, Ronit to duck her mandatory army service, Jamil to avoid following in his father's footsteps to a career in medicine. Throughout, Laskin's spare first-person poems and prefatory and end notes help educate young readers as to the gravity of the political stakes in this war-torn region where, while Ronit texts that "there is no separation barrier" between them, they both lament that their physical reality proves quite the opposite: "This wall / is so high; / 25 feet of concrete / 435 miles long." At once romantic and revealing, an important window into contemporary conditions in the Middle East. (Verse fiction. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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    Katherine Tegen Books
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