EMU Common Reads

EMU’s intellectual life committee invites you to join the campus reading program, which will focus on Searching for Zion : the quest for home in the African diaspora by Emily Raboteau.

About our book for 2015-16

At the age of twenty-three, Emily Raboteau traveled to Israel to visit her childhood best friend. While her friend appeared to have found a place to belong, Raboteau could not yet say the same for herself. As a biracial woman from a country still divided along racial lines, she’d never exactly felt at home in America. But as a reggae fan and the daughter of a historian of African-American religion, Raboteau knew of “Zion” as a place black people yearned to be. She’d heard about it on Bob Marley’s album, Exodus and in the speeches of Martin Luther King. She understood it as a metaphor for freedom, a spiritual realm rather than a geographical one. Now in Israel, the Jewish Zion, she was surprised to discover black Jews. More surprising was the story of how they got there. Inspired by their exodus, Raboteau sought out other black communities that left home in search of a Promised Land. Her question for them is same she asks herself: have you found the home you’re looking for?

On her ten-year journey back in time and around the globe, through the Bush years and into the age of Obama, Raboteau wanders through Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana, and the American South to explore the complex and contradictory perspectives of Black Zionists. She talks to Rastafarians and African Hebrew Israelites, Evangelicals and Ethiopian Jews, Katrina transplants from her own family—people that have risked everything in search of territory that is hard to define and harder to inhabit. Uniting memoir with historical and cultural investigation, Raboteau overturns our ideas of place and patriotism, displacement and dispossession, citizenship and country in a disarmingly honest and refreshingly brave take on the pull of the story of the Exodus. – From the author’s website

About Emily Raboteau

Emily Raboteau is the author of a novel, The Professor’s Daughter (Henry Holt) and a work of creative nonfiction, Searching for Zion (Grove), named a best book of 2013 by The Huffington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle, a current finalist for the Hurston Wright Legacy Award, grand prize winner of the New York Book Festival, and winner of a 2014 American Book Award. Her fiction and essays have been widely published and anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Non-required Reading, The New York Times, Tin House, The Guardian, Guernica, VQR, The Believer and elsewhere. Honors include a Pushcart Prize, The Chicago Tribune’s Nelosn Algren Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony. An avid world traveler, Raboteau resides in New York City and teaches creative writing in Harlem at City College, once known as “the poor man’s Harvard.” – From the author’s website.

Events

Emily Raboteau will be on campus Oct. 21, 2015. She will speak at University Chapel, 10 am at Lehman Auditorium as well at an afternoon colloquium.