Kai Bird is the co-author with Martin J. Sherwin of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2005), which also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography. His other books include The Chairman: John J. McCloy, the Making of the American Establishment (1992) and The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy & William Bundy, Brothers in Arms (1998). Bird's many honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation. A contributing editor of The Nation, he lives in Kathmandu, Nepal, with his wife and son.
Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning coauthor of American Prometheus, offers a compelling hybrid of memoir and history, weaving together recollections of his childhood in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt; the stories of his wife's Holocaust survivor parents; and rigorous scholarship on the region. The book's title-Mandelbaum Gate once separated Israeli-controlled Western Jerusalem from the Jordanian-controlled East-indicates a view on the conflict, and it's certainly that, but it's also much more: readers are given ringside seats to Cairo under Nasser, the author's American family's friends (including Osama bin Laden's elder brother), and Bird's years in India and the U.S. during the heyday of the antiwar movement of the '60s. Notable events and figures (airplane hijacker Leila Khaled, for example, or the Palestinian-Jordanian battles known as Black September) are given detailed treatment and their continuing resonance is made clear. Bird's brushes with history-his first girlfriend was held hostage on an airplane hijacked to win Khaled's release, for instance-brings home the deeply messy humanity of the stories he binds together in this kaleidoscopic and captivating book. (Apr.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
"Acute and engaging... Bird puts me somewhat in mind of Edward
Said's memoir, Out of Place.... Bird devotes the last third
of his text to a reconstruction of his Austrian Jewish wife's
family history during and after the Shoah. His intention here is as
admirable as it is plain, and these pages contain some stirring and
even uplifting material about human survival. But this serves only
to make his genuine evenhandedness more poignant."--Christopher
Hitchens, The Atlantic
"Engaging and insightful... Crossing Mandelbaum Gate is a compelling corrective that can force even reluctant readers to look at the Middle East anew.... A powerful and unflinching book."--James Gibney, The American Scholar