“I burned through this eye-opening book, utterly engaged with Raboteau’s searchwhich is, after all, everyone’s search. Raboteau presents a self full of contradictions, smoldering energy, and the willingness to lay it all bare. Searching for Zion is a glorious meditation on what it is to be alive.” Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
A decade in the making, Emily Raboteau’s Searching for Zion
takes readers around the world on an unexpected adventure of faith. Both one woman’s quest for a place to call “home” and an investigation into a people’s search for the Promised Land, this landmark work of creative nonfiction is a trenchant inquiry into contemporary and historical ethnic displacement.
At 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 couldn’t say the same for herself. As a biracial woman from a country still divided along racial lines, she’d never 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 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. In Israel
, the Jewish Zion, she was surprised to discover black Jews. Inspired by their exodus, Raboteau sought out other black communities that had left home in search of a Promised Land. Her question for them is the same she asks herself: have you found the home you’re looking for?
On her journey back in time and across the globe, through the Bush years and into the age of Obama, Raboteau visits Jamaica
, 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, and Katrina transplants from her own familypeople who have risked everything in search of territory that is hard to define and harder to inhabit.
With Searching for Zion,
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 Exodus.An interview and video from the Jewish Daily Forward. Emily Raboteau and
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts in conversation about parenthood, promised lands,
and the relationship between blacks and Jews.