Still Lives – a memoir of Gaza
Four years, two wars and one most unlikely social enterprise.
Marilyn Garson was an experienced aid professional who created jobs at the edge of war. In 2011, she was invited to move to the Gaza Strip. Friends warned her that nothing worked behind the Gaza blockade. Unable to resist that challenge, Marilyn became the Economic Director of a large NGO programme, leading an ambitious young Palestinian team.
Gaza’s business owners, technology graduates, and job-seekers (facing the highest unemployment on earth) overturned Marilyn’s understanding of aid and justice. Then she volunteered to join the United Nations’ emergency team that would remain inside Gaza through the 2014 war.
Marilyn witnessed first-hand the impact of Israel’s urban assault and massive civilian displacement. The UN was prepared to shelter 35,000 displaced Gazans, but 293,000 arrived. Locked in beneath the bombs, they had nowhere safer to go, and nothing but the United Nations flag and international law to protect them.
Neither Marilyn’s team nor Gaza itself was the same after fifty days of bombardment. But the team was still determined to launch their social enterprise.
On her last day, Marilyn’s final task was to tell her Gazan colleagues that she is a Jew.
Advance praise for Still Lives – a memoir of Gaza
Eloquent, animated and abounding with humanity. This is an absorbing book about many journeys: from Canada and New Zealand to living in Gaza during its darkest hours; from an innocent abroad to becoming a proficient humanitarian professional; and from daughter and sister to finding her own moral voice in lands of tragedy. Marilyn Garson dissolves the stereotypes about Gaza, as human beings march through its pages. Read it, and you will never think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the same way again.
Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in the
Palestinian Territory Occupied since 1967
Marilyn Garson’s Still Lives: a Memoir of Gaza is an invaluable contribution to the literature on Gaza and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Few books achieve what this one does: it allows the reader to see Gazans as they see themselves, as ordinary human beings living—not surviving—under extraordinary, unending conditions, an “audaciously human society” insisting on a future that is continually denied them. Garson is Jewish and she begins by recounting her own background (and how she came to Gaza), which is gently but critically woven into her life in Gaza where she endured two of the Strip’s destructive and terrifying wars. With compelling elegance Garson does not speak for Palestinians but allows them to speak for themselves and the result is as illuminating as it is absorbing. I have read exhaustively on Gaza and on the conflict; Garson’s book is one of the most powerful and affecting. It is not to be missed.
Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar,
Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
Author of The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development
In this moving and stunningly eloquent memoir, Marilyn Garson fulfils her promise “to tell what she saw” during her four years in Gaza as a Jewish humanitarian worker and social entrepreneur from New Zealand, living, breathing and suffering with ordinary Gazans caught between the thuggish brutality of the Israeli military on the one hand and the cynical control of Hamas on the other… At the same time, it plots her own journey of discovery of the core of her Jewish identity and the “thing of beauty” that is the prophetic tradition… Garson was changed forever by her experience in Gaza and by the individuals there who taught her that the true measure of one’s life is not what one builds – which bombs can blow away anyway – but what one gives. Anyone who reads her powerful and compassionate narrative cannot fail to be changed in some way as well.
Professor Christopher Marshall,
Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ
Under Hamas rule and Israeli blockade, few Westerners have the opportunity to see Gaza for themselves. In this extraordinary new book, Marilyn Garson takes the reader behind the blockade walls, to the very heart of the Gaza Strip and its extraordinary inhabitants. No one reading her account can be indifferent to the fate of the people of Gaza. A gripping story, Still Lives deserves the widest readership, as a book that can make a difference.
Eugene Rogan, author of The Arabs: A History,
Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, Oxford University
Intimate, knowing, humane; effortlessly moving from the personal to the political and back; embracing as it interweaves the neoliberal world order and the impoverished Gaza microcosm; written with a novelist’s eye for detail, in a prose that is as lush and evocative as it is gripping — in short, to read Marilyn Garson’s portrait of Gaza is a transformative experience.
Norman G. Finkelstein, author of Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom
The book launch! Vic Books Pipitea.
5:30 on Wednesday, October 23.