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Pamela Olson, a small town girl from eastern Oklahoma, had what she always wanted: a physics degree from Stanford University. But instead of feeling excited for what came next, she felt consumed by dread and confusion. This irresistible memoir chronicles her journey from aimless ex-bartender to Ramallah-based journalist and foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate.

With dizzying speed she found herself attending Yasser Arafat's funeral, tour-guiding Israeli friends around the West Bank, dating a Palestinian from a conservative village, being held at gunpoint and injured by a stun grenade, and witnessing the 2005 Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip. The gripping narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and politics but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic drama that happen in between.

Funny, gorgeous, shocking, and galvanizing, Fast Times in Palestine challenges the way we think not only about the Middle East but about human nature and our place in the world.

Praise for Fast Times

"Harrowing, funny, vivid, entertaining and deeply humane, Fast Times in Palestine opens a rare window onto Palestinian life. It's impossible not to be moved on nearly every page."
    Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree
"I realize that without knowing it, I have long waited for this book, although I could not have imagined its lyric magic in advance of reading."
"What makes her story so compelling is that she tells it in an honest and straightforward way, not by relying on hot rhetoric. For anyone who wants to learn the truth about life under Israeli occupation, this book is a superb starting point."
    Prof. John J. Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby
"More than a travelogue or a polemic, the book is a coming-of-age story, as Olson discovers her voice by directly confronting the challenges of living in a state of institutionalized paradox... Engaging and easy to read, this is a fascinating memoir." "The strength of the narrative lies in Olson's investigation of the personal and mental effects of oppression and war on herself and her newfound friends, 'the atmosphere of mute shock expressed only in sidelong glances… of knowing something few people knew, and of genuine connection and collective struggle…' An empathetic, intriguing memoir."

"A moving, inspiring account of life in Palestine that's enormously informative yet reads like a novel."

"Pamela Olson leads the reader on an exciting, funny, at times heart-wrenching journey, carefully deciphering complex political and historical issues. Olson is a talented writer, intelligent and exceptional in her ability to convey both tragedy and hope, remaining morally grounded and refreshingly honest."

"As an Israeli whose life was shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I found Fast Times in Palestine moving and refreshing. Pamela Olson comes to the Middle East with a blank slate and is therefore able to hold up an undistorted mirror to the reality she encounters."

"Pamela Olson operates in a great tradition of American explorers, from Martha Gellhorn to Susan Meiselas to Rachel Corrie — open-minded women who have thrown off a lot of tired received wisdom about a fearful part of the world in order to see it for themselves, then brought that understanding back to their own culture. This book is a triumph of sympathy and observation."

"Fast Times in Palestine will open your eyes to the human story inside the political drama... Olson’s heartfelt work will change how you understand the Middle East."

    Patricia Ryan Madson, Professor Emerita at Stanford and author of Improv Wisdom
"It's love in the time of occupation as Pamela Olson... takes us on the emotional roller-coaster of her very personal experience of life in Ramallah — and in doing so lays bare the human drama of a people... determined to live free."

    Tony Karon, Senior Editor, TIME

"In a field overcrowded with arcane academic texts and strident polemics, Pamela Olson has broken through with a refreshing read that packs gritty journalism into a fast-paced, intimate personal narrative."

"Part adventure story, part searing reportage, part love story, and wholly absorbing... If you want to know what everyday life is like for the Palestinian people, go to Palestine; if you can’t, read this book."

    Dr. Kenneth Ring, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Connecticut, and co-author of Letters from Palestine

"Olson does not merely report on the world of others; she steps into their shoes and sees the world through their eyes. Fast Times in Palestine is a heroic and touching journey to self-awareness that will awaken the reader to a more humane perspective on the Arab world."

"Olson's masterful storytelling, imagery, and wit take the reader on a transformative journey through Palestine."


  • Publishers Weekly (named it a Top 10 Travel Book of 2013)

  • National Geographic (named it a Best Travel Book of Spring)

  • Library Journal

  • Kirkus Reviews

  • Prof. Richard Falk

  • Jordan Times

  • Edmond Sun (Oklahoma)

  • Gulf Daily News (Bahrain)

  • Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh, Mondoweiss

  • The National (United Arab Emirates)

  • A Traveler's Library: An Inside Look at Palestine

  • 5 End-of-Summer Travel Memoirs, Peter Greenberg, CBS News

  • "Beach Reads" for a San Francisco Fall, SF Chronicle

  • This Week in Palestine

  • Story Circle

  • The Cultureist

  • BiblioJunkie

  • Eat, Read, Explore

  • Love, Inshallah

  • Proto Libro

  • Chick Lit Club

  • Tango Diva

  • Jerry Merriman

  • IndieReader

  • Transcend Media

  • On Orient

  • David Enzel

  • Goodreads Reviews

  • Amazon Reviews

    Interviews & Presentations

  • Presentation at The Palestine Center (video)

  • Writing Out Loud interview on PBS (video)

  • Interview with Rick Steves (audio)

  • Interview with Talking Stick TV (video)

  • Presentation at Google Tech Talks (video)

  • Interview on True Talk Radio (audio)

  • Interview with The Global Observatory (audio and transcript)

  • Interview at Oklahoma University (audio and transcript)

  • Interview on Michael Slate Show, KPFK (audio begins at min 5)

  • Interview with Danielle Tumminio, Huffington Post

  • If Anne Frank were Alive, She’d be Working for Peace, Aksam (English version here)

  • Pamela J. Olson wants readers to see the Palestine that she sees, Today’s Zaman (Turkey)

  • Israel fuels violence to destroy Palestinian unity government, Yenisafak (Turkey)

  • Interview with BelAhdan (video)

  • Interview with The Global Bookshelf

  • Interview with IndieReader

  • Interview with Noor Elashi

  • Just for fun: My short career on the Flying Trapeze (video)

    Awards & Honors

  • A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Travel Book of 2013

  • A National Geographic Best Travel Book of Spring 2013

  • Winner, IndieReader Discovery Award in the Travel category

  • Finalist, Next Gen. Indie Book Award, Multicultural Non-fiction

  • One of Married with Luggage's Forty Books to Inspire your Dreams

    Articles by Pamela

  • An Arrest on the West Bank

  • The Ramallah I Remembered
            Stanford Magazine

  • The First Draft as Scaffolding

  • On Leaving the Boring out of your Book

  • Nakba in The New Yorker, BDS in Variety

  • Farewell, Fig Leaf
            The Link (Americans for Middle East Understanding)

  • From Self-Published to Published: A Highlight Reel

  • Nationwide Book Tour: A Peek Inside the Sausage

  • Book Tour USA: Week One

  • Book Tour Report

  • Faith, Marriage, and Scrabble
            Love, Inshallah

  • Finding Peace in Palestine
            Writing for Peace

  • Book Review: The Hour of Sunlight

  • Book Review: The Almond Tree

  • On 'Cycles of Violence'

  • What Statehood Bid?

  • Reasons for Hope

  • Volunteer Blog
            Project Hope

  • My Ten Favorite Blog Posts
            Fast Times in Palestine


  • Full list of excerpts in the Table of Contents

  • The Dancing Cop at Al Manara

  • A West Bank Story

  • Excerpt: Fast Times in Palestine
            The Cultureist

  • New Year's in a Garden on the Moon
            This Week in Palestine

  • Deep in Enemy Territory
            Palestine Chronicle

    "I am a man; nothing human is alien to me."

    ~ Terence, Berber playwright of the Roman Republic

    Yes, quaint and curious war is!
    You shoot a fellow down
    You'd treat if met where any bar is,
    Or help to half-a-crown.

    ~ Thomas Hardy, The Man He Killed

    "So much political capital has been made out of the Barcelona fighting that it is important to try and get a balanced view of it... Nearly all the newspaper accounts published at the time were manufactured by journalists at a distance, and were not only inaccurate in the facts but intentionally misleading. As usual, only one side of the question has been allowed to get to the wider public. Like everyone who was in Barcelona at the time, I saw only what was happening in my immediate neighborhood, but I saw and heard quite enough to be able to contradict many of the lies that have been circulated... It is... necessary to try and establish the truth, so far as it is possible. This squalid brawl in a distant city is more important than might appear at first."

    ~ George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia


    Click to view the book's Amazon page

    Copyright 2012, Pamela J. Olson

    You are welcome to contact me -- pamolson @ gmail dot com