Today I have author Michelle Cohen Corasanti here to tell us about her book The Almond Tree.
So why don’t you tell us about yourself and when did you start writing stories?
I witnessed something, over twenty years ago, that affected me so deeply that despite all my best efforts, I could no longer repress it. I remember the exact moment I decided to become a writer. I had just started reading Khaled Hosseni’s book, The Kite Runner. I was lying on a lounge chair, by the pool, at the Setai hotel, in South Beach, sipping a cosmopolitan. I was on vacation with my husband and twins. I didn’t have a care in the world until Amir, the protagonist, said that the past can’t be buried, that it finds the means to claw its way out. And like Amir, my past found a way to call me. And there I was face-to-face with my worst nightmares and my greatest failures. One might say a defining moment. And I decided, that I wanted my children to know, that I had seen injustice and that I would try to do something about it. And so I wrote the story that had been inside of me for so long.
I grew up in a Jewish home in which German cars were boycotted and Israeli bonds were plentiful. Other than the blue-and-white tin Jewish National Fund sedakah box my family kept in the kitchen and the money we would give to plant trees in Israel, all I knew was that after the Holocaust, the Jews found a land without a people for a people without a land. And the Jews were always persecuted for no reason.
I went to Israel in high school to get some freedom from my strict parents. I was looking for fun. Unfortunately, I became like the witness who saw too much. It was very apparent that everything I had been taught was a lie.
When I returned to the US seven years later, I wanted to devote my life to bringing about justice and peace there. After ten years of college, degrees in Middle Eastern studies and law school, I met my husband and jumped ship. I just saved myself. The Kite Runner gave me the idea of how I could achieve my goal because he taught me that a writer could reach into people’s hearts and change them forever.
What is The Almond Tree about, and how did you come up with the idea?
The Almond Tree recasts the Palestinians in Israel and Gaza, a people frequently in the news, but often misrepresented and more misunderstood’ I think the author Les Edgerton described my book well. In his words:
Ichmad’s story is a big-hearted story of a small Palestinian boy who learns to survive in a brutal environment and doesn’t simply endure, but emerges from the fire with the wisdom gleaned from the example of a father who has taught him that all men have value, even their enemies. A tale of innocence moving through a vicious world, compassion learned against an environment of daily horrors, and wisdom forged through a boy’s journey through a life we would never wish upon our own children.
The book’s universal message of resilience, hope and forgiveness will hit home with anyone who has faced adversity. I try to show the human side of the conflict and explore themes of redemption, family sacrifice and the benefits of education and tolerance
I got the idea for the book from a Palestinian I met when I was at Harvard. He was doing his post-doctorate there with a Noble Prize winner and his Israeli professor and I just saw how strong the Palestinians and the Israelis were when they worked together. That’s where I got the seed of the story.
Who is your favorite character and why?
The protagonist, Ichmad Hamid because against all odds, he goes on to achieve greatness.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Writing the Jewish American human rights activist was the hardest part. With hindsight, I can say I tried to make her into everything I wished I could have been and failed to be. I couldn’t give her any flaws. No one liked her and so I was forced to shorten her role.
How long did it take you to write it?
When I decided to write my novel, I thought I would finish it in three months. I already had the seed for the story. Seven years, twenty-one writing classes and 6 editors later, I completed the task.
What is your favorite scene in this story and why? If you have more than one favorite, then just pick one.
My favorite scene is when Ichmad realizes that in saving himself and his family, he left his people behind and he tries to shine a light as bright as he could on his people.
Where can people find your book?
It’s available on amazon, barnesandnoble.com and most on-line venues as an e-book and a paperback and some select stores.
Do you have anything else you’d like to say or add to this interview?
Thank you so much for the interview
You’re welcome. It was a pleasure chatting with you.
You can read the interview here and learn more about Wandering Thoughts of A Writer. Click Here.