Reviews & Awards

Placed 2nd for the 2014 non-fiction DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE


“Roberts does a masterful job of presenting all perspectives in their proper context.”
(30 September, 2013)

EMBASSY: Canada’s foreign policy weekly:
“Her writing has academic credibility and personal appeal. If that sounds unlikely, it is. Only a writer as good as Roberts could make it work — but work it does, as it proceeds to unravel Israel’s paradoxical political identity. …
Roberts is empathetic to the suffering of Jews and Arabs alike but she doesn’t rush to judgment. Story by story, she introduces us to an often painful complexity that promises no quick solution, but somehow carries a faint hope….
Contested Land, Contested Memory offers a nuanced understanding that comes from a smartly-guided tour of those Israeli polarities. I strongly recommend Roberts’ eloquent visit to Israel’s bold and painful past and present.”
(27 November, 2013: full Embassy review)

“The author significantly contributes to the historiography of 1948, particularly in her presentation of the lesser-known experiences of displaced Palestinians who remained in what became Israel after the war.
Roberts’s thoughtful book considers the traumas of the Holocaust for Jewish Israelis and the Nakba for Palestinian citizens of Israel through the lens of ‘social suffering’…
Original interviews with Palestinian citizens of Israel displaced in 1948, Jewish Israelis who fought in 1948, and Jewish Israelis living on Palestinian village lands, provide insights into divergent memories and viewpoints.”
(17 January, 2014: read the EI review)

JEWISH RENAISSANCE: Magazine of Jewish Culture (UK):
“… A short review such as this cannot do justice to a book which narrates in rich detail the history of the Jews in Europe leading to the founding of the State of Israel and its impact on the local population of Palestine. The discussion of identity, statehood and the role of narrative gives a context for the sources of the conflicts and their continuation. You may not agree with all that is written in this book. Some of the material will bring great sadness…. This does not stop me from recommending strongly that you read it.”
(April 2014: read the full review)

There are two narratives, two understandings about what happened in 1948, Jo Roberts suggests in her book Contested Land, Contested Memory (Dundurn, 2013). Neither of these narratives is exclusive, or rules out the legitimacy of the other version.
Roberts interviewed Israelis and Israeli Arabs to hear how they related to the events of 1948, and how memories of the war and what followed continue to affect their lives today. … On the one hand, the author focuses on the long-term effects of the Holocaust for Jews and how it influenced their desperate need for an independent Jewish homeland. In parallel, the author writes of Arabs who lost their homes in villages whose very existence would subsequently disappear from the map. For them, the Nakba is not a historical event as much as an ongoing process.
In order to understand the other side, the first step in reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians must be to hear the other’s story of suffering, she contends… stating repeatedly “how vital an element in reconciliation and healing is the acknowledgement of another’s pain.” …
(26 May, 2014: read the full review)

… Roberts provides an engaging introduction to the significance of collective memory in Israeli and Palestinian education, geography, and law. What results is a diverse anthology of the ways these divergent memories affect the current culture and conflict.
… she excavates both Jewish Israeli and Palestinian socio-cultural memory to provide a deeper understanding of the political.
… Roberts’ book is an excellent introduction for those wishing to gain a basic overview of the general conflict through a cultural lens… But there is plenty more in-depth information in the book that will also hold the attention of the more knowledgeable reader….
(26 June, 2014: read the full review)

… wonderful work, a splendid achievement.
(June-July 2014)

THE LINK: Journal of Americans for Middle East Understanding (US):
The writing … has the objective precision of a legal scholar and the openheartedness of a human rights advocate.
(September-October 2014: read the full review)

Jo Roberts’ stunning new book…
Writers have used collective memory to explore the history of groups besides Israelis and Palestinians, but Contested Land, Contested Memory distinguishes itself on several counts… Roberts’ fine writing makes the discourse of collective memory more accessible than many other books do.
(15-28 August, 2014: read the full review)

FRIENDS JOURNAL: Quaker Thought and Life Today:
Roberts’s insights helped make more sense of [the Gaza crisis]… .
Having read more than I care to admit about Palestine/Israel, I found fascinating details revealed in Roberts’s careful journalism. …
I have not read a better book than Roberts’s Contested Land, Contested Memory for understanding the competing memories of that past.
(September 2014: read the full review)

Jo Roberts’s splendid new study… intelligent and touching….
The first-hand accounts make the book compelling reading and infuse its arguments with unassailable authenticity. Even for a knowledgeable amateur like myself, who has read numerous histories of Israel’s founding, Roberts illuminates well-known narratives with fresh light. …
At the same time, Roberts’s formal arguments have a lapidary quality … I thought more than once, “I knew that. She’s got that just right, and I couldn’t say it better.”
(29 September, 2014: read the full review and my letter)

Contested Land, Contested Memory is at once eye-opening and thoughtful, invaluable for anyone wanting to better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
(January 2015)

[A]n important book…
Roberts has used oral narratives and well-selected written texts to craft thoughtful analyses of the memories and dreams of contemporary Israelis. … this book was both beautifully and skilfully crafted and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in memory.
(Vol. 42 Issue 1: Winter/Spring 2015)

Jo Roberts enlarges the screen and enables us to see both sides. … [she] has given us an empathetic overview of how Israelis and Palestinians came to their present place of alienation.
(May 2015)

THE ECUMENIST: A Journal of Theology, Culture, and Society:
This remarkable book is, to my knowledge, the first detailed analysis of the oppression inflicted upon the Palestinians by the Israeli government … that has been welcomed by Jewish organizations and prominent Jewish scholars. …
What is the book’s secret? The author has a great sensitivity to human suffering…. Her method of social analysis is formed by her conviction that the politics of nations and their shared values are, to a large extent, determined by their historical memories of past humiliations.
(Vol. 53 No. 3: Summer 2015)

Jo Roberts’s account of the role of conflicting perceptions of ownership in Israel– Palestine—of land, space, maps, memory, history—is largely based on her personal encounters with Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, to which she brings a high degree of openness, empathy and understanding. This produces unique insights into the way some individuals live comfortably within their constructed realities and some succeed in shedding such constructions and embrace narratives that fundamentally challenge the ethno-national assumptions they have lived with since childhood.
(Vol. 86 No. 3: July – September 2015)

Roberts, a former human rights observer in the West Bank, employs an anthropological approach: she conceives how communally and individually experienced memories of suffering define how Palestinian and Jewish Israelis understand identity, rights to the land, borders, and the spatial design of the landscape. … the many personal accounts and interviews Roberts gathers from Israeli Jews and Palestinians provide poignant testimonies to how memory shapes the very sinews of this conflict. …. Contested Land, Contested Memory is a work that disinters Israel’s buried history concealed in the collective psyche that ignores the past. … Written in highly accessible prose, this work is recommended to general readers and undergraduate students.
(Vol. XLIV, No. 4 – Summer 2015)

On the GLOBE AND MAIL bestseller list.

Chosen by the ANGLICAN JOURNAL as recommended reading on Israel/Palestine (see list).

Voted one of the top Canadian non-fiction titles in the QUILL & QUIRE Books of the Year 2013 readers’ poll.