House of Windows: Portraits of a Jerusalem Neighborhood by Adina Hoffman
House of Windows is a compelling evocation of Jerusalem seen through the prism of the neighborhood where she has lived for eight years, since moving from the United States.
Hoffman concentrates on the lives of ordinary people, and establishes a vivid sense of place through a series of first-person descriptions of characters and events. By focusing on the day-to-day rhythms of her close-knit community - practically a self-contained village within the bustling urban landscape - Hoffman offers a rich, precise, and refreshingly honest portrait of a city often reduced to generalization and cliche.
This view of life along the border between the western (Jewish) and eastern (Arab) sides of the city will be a revelation to American readers, accustomed to the symbolically overburdened Israel of news headlines and ancient historical sites. The narrative consists of a series of interlocking sketches, a constellation of intimate portraits: a Sephardic grocer, an aging civil servant, a Palestinian gardener, a nosy mother of ten, and others. Its gaze and ambition gradually widen to take in larger questions of identity and exile, whether that of the once and in some cases still poor Moroccan-Jewish residents of the area, of the well-to-do Palestinians who founded the neighborhood and lived there until 1948, or of the writer herself, transplanted to her new home in the Middle East.