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Inclusive Literature #1

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Carmi, Danielle. Samir and Yonatan. Translated by Yael Lotan. New York: Arthur A. Levin Books, 1994. ISBN: 0-439-13504-4.

 

Samir and Yonatan is a young adult’s novel that depicts the fears of a Palestinian boy who is taken to an Israeli hospital.  He comes from a village occupied by military forces in Jordan.  At the ward he meets four other children, but he develops a special friendship with Yonatan.  Yonatan is the son of an astronomer and uses the knowledge he gets from astronomy books to help his imagination escape from this world.  He shares this with Samir and to prove his point he uses a computer program that takes them to Mars.  In a peculiar way, Yonatan’s friendship helps Samir assimilate the death of his brother as well as the situation at home.

“Carmi does an excellent job of describing the horrors of Samir's life without graphic descriptions of violence or deprivation. Her style is simple without being simplistic, and her treatment of the conflict in the Middle East is even handed.” (Cope)

Her characters seem like real people that suffer the oppression of another government.  They have fears, traumas, and anxieties that affect their daily lives.  For instance, one day Samir gets the idea that Tzahi’s, another boy in the ward, soldier brother is responsible for the death of his brother, Fadi.  These thoughts even cause his temperature to rise, therefore postponing the surgery he needs on his knee. 

The author shows the way Jordan people survive and maintain their traditions even under the occupation.  Life is very difficult for them.  They have to endure curfews and regulations imposed on them such as boycotts that cause poverty and hunger.  Yet, the people continue their life by taking advantage of whatever resources they have left.  

The story promotes equality among all human beings and peace for the world.  All five children in Room Six of the hospital have different medical conditions and come from different places, but they learn to respect and appreciate each other.   The message of human equality is reflected asYonatan explains to Samir, “All of us here on Earth are made of the same materials.  We contain water, carbon, calcium, iron, protein, and some other stuff…All of us, Indians and French people, Africans and Russians, Jews and Arabs, Eskimos and Japanese- anyone you can think of

Also, the cover of the book is a brick wall carved with the shape of a dove.  Through the carving we can see two boys floating in the air.  The dove represents peace over the world.  Even if walls are built to separate people, love and friendship will always help build a carving through the  "walls of separation"(Marston). 

This is a great concept that can be used in a classroom in grades 6 through 8.  Students can elaborate on it by creating discussions to support their point of view.  They may even create a play that represents the peace in the world and equality among all human beings.

Samir and Yonatan received the 2001 Batchelder Award for Best Translated Novel and a UNESCO prize "in the Service of Tolerance." The publisher described it as "a wonderful experience all around," with no negative repercussions. (Marston)

 

 

Reference:

Cope, Jim. Samir and Yonatan Review. At http://www.secondaryenglish.com/samirandyonatan.html. Retrieved on July 22, 2005.

Marston, Elsa. More than just stories: The portrayal of Palestinians in American children's literature. Electronic Intifada, March 11, 2004. At
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article2488.shtml. Retrieved on August 7, 2005.