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Music is often at the heart of stories of peace triumphing over war. We easily accept the idea of music as the universal communicator, but rarely utilize it in real life as such. Sandy Tolan though gives us a true story, following Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan (the literal posterboy for Palestinian intifada) as he grows and grows up with music, maintaining his anti-occupation beliefs, but pursuing peace, collaboration, and hope through music.— Jocelyn
It is an unlikely story. Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan, a child from a Palestinian refugee camp, confronts an occupying army, gets an education, masters an instrument, dreams of something much bigger than himself, and then, through his charisma and persistence, inspires scores of others to work with him to make that dream real. The dream: a school to transform the lives of thousands of children--as Ramzi's life was transformed--through music.
Musicians from all over the world came to help. A violist left the London Symphony Orchestra, in part to work with Ramzi at his new school, Al Kamandjati. An aspiring British opera singer moved to the West Bank to teach voice lessons. Daniel Barenboim, the eminent Israeli conductor, invited Ramzi to join his West Eastern Divan Orchestra, which he founded with the late Palestinian intellectual, Edward Said. Since then the two have played together frequently. "Ramzi has transformed not only his life, his destiny, but that of many other people," Barenboim said. "This is an extraordinary collection of children from all over Palestine that have all been inspired and opened to the beauty of life."
Children of the Stone chronicles Ramzi's journey--from stone thrower to music student to school founder--and shows how through his love of music he created something lasting and beautiful in a land torn by violence and war. This is a story about the power of music, first, but also about freedom and conflict, determination and vision. It's a vivid portrait of life amid checkpoints and military occupation, a growing movement of nonviolent resistance, the prospects of musical collaboration across the Israeli–Palestinian divide, and the potential of music to help children everywhere see new possibilities for their lives.
“An astonishing story related with admirable talent. Tolan offers a skillful mix of reportage with heart bursting inspiration; the kind of mix that informs while awakening compassion and hope . . . In this way, Children of the Stone is a book to be studied as well as enjoyed. It should be savored, shared and argued about. Perfect material for a reading group.” —Huffington Post
“Eye-opening . . . Tolan's exhaustive research and journalistic attention to detail shine through every page of this sweeping chronicle.” —Publishers Weekly
“[Tolan] portrays the multigenerational Israeli-Palestinian conflict by focusing on the life and musical abilities of one youngster, Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan, and his family and friends . . . This is an engrossing and powerful story, moving skillfully amid the failure of the never-ending battles and 'peace' talks between Israel and Palestine and the determination of one brave young man to change his world.” —starred review, Booklist
“A resolute, heart-rending story of real change and possibility in the Palestinian-Israeli impasse.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Tolan has made his reputation writing in-depth, reconstructive journalism about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Here he looks at a moderately successful effort by Israeli Danial Barenboim and the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said to create an orchestra comprising Israeli and Palestinian musicians. . . It could stand as a metaphor for the enduring conflict and efforts to resolve it." —Best Books of 2015, St. Louis Dispatch
“A non-fiction account that reflects one individual's belief in the power of music and culture to transform lives. His story is proof of the famous words of Margaret Mead--'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.'” —Yo-Yo Ma
“Somewhere amidst the separation barriers and the countless checkpoints, the refugee camps and the demolished homes, the fruitless negotiations and endless conflict, there is a people yearning for a life of dignity and normalcy. You won't see them on TV or in many newspapers. But you will find them in The Children of Stone, Sandy Tolan's moving account of the dispossessed children of Palestine, and the transformative power that music has had in giving them meaning and reason for hope.” —Reza Aslan, author of NO GOD BUT GOD and #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestseller ZEALOT: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS OF NAZARETH
“Children of the Stone is alive with compassion, hope, and great inspiration. It is not necessary to believe in music's power to defeat evil in order to be enchanted by this wonderful story.” —Tom Segev, Israeli historian and author of ONE PALESTINE, COMPLETE
“Sandy Tolan's narrative artistry fuses the coming of age of a talented, ambitious, and fiercely dedicated musician with the story of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories conquered in 1967. A major contribution to our understanding of who they are and essential to a political resolution of the conflict.” —Joel Benin, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Professor of Middle East History, Stanford University
“Sandy Tolan has produced another gem on what is happening under the surface in Palestine. The book contains enthralling biographical trajectories of ordinary people fighting against the odds. Written in the style of investigative journalism, the book is riveting and uplifting, without skirting issues of contestation and controversy.” —Salim Tamari, Professor of Sociology, Bir Zeit University (West Bank) and author of YEAR OF THE LOCUST
“[Children of the Stone is] a symphony of international locations, big ideas and human dramas . . . a deeply moving parable of struggle and mastery--over an instrument, over painful injustice and ultimately over self.” —Newsweek
"Sandy Tolan sympathetically lays bare the stresses behind the monolithic WEDO façade, as musicians whose off-stage lives couldn't be more different--comfortable affluence for the Israelis, poverty and hardship for the Arabs--find themselves in entrenched opposition in their stances over the West Bank occupation." —The Independent
"[A]mbitious . . . Tolan excels as a dogged reporter, and his musical descriptions amplify his core themes." —Truthdig