I listened to this audiobook mostly while I was biking with my dog, so now I find that I “miss” Rachel Corrie when I go biking with a different audiobook. This makes it even more heartbreaking that my “missing” this book is only the most miniscule fraction of what her family and friends felt when she died suddenly and senselessly while doing activist work in Palestine.
I love reading published journals, no matter the subject matter or the author, meaning that I’ll read the diaries of “famous people” who I don’t really know for their work beyond their diaries. These published journals seem to be a fitting tribute to Rachel Corrie’s life and her development as an activist, although they are a somewhat disjointed collection of her poetry, diary entries, letters, and essays, many of which have only the vaguest of dates attached to them. Like many published journals, people and events are mentioned without any context, so you just have to accept that, despite being drawn into some of Rachel’s most intimate thoughts and observations, you remain an outsider. There is no question that even as a teenager Rachel was a very talented writer, and her writer’s voice develops as she grows. Her essay about her lover Colin is so beautiful and gives so much context to their relationship that I liked being “in the know” whenever Colin was mentioned in passing in later entries.
It’s true that where this journal really shines is in the writing Rachel does from Palestine. I felt like I got a better idea of what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “really” like through Rachel’s writing than through any newscast, article, or conversation I have ever come across. Her passion for her work really comes through as well, her conviction seeming to grow with each entry until it is cut short in the last entry before her death, followed by a single sentence memorializing the date and circumstances of her death.
The book essentially ends there, which felt too abrupt to me. After spending “years” of Rachel’s life with her, I wanted to know, via an afterward or an editor’s note, what happened next. I found on Wikipedia that Rachel’s family brought several lawsuits against those in Israel who investigated her death, challenging the conclusion that it was an “accident” (she was run over by a bulldozer that was “clearing” a Palestinian neighborhood, an action she had been frequently protesting.) Although her father gives a prelude to the journals that details her death, this information is less resonant before we have gotten to “know” her through her writing, and I wish more of this sort of thing would have been included at the end, to help ease the reader out of the book and to give some opportunity for further reflection. But of course, what I really wish is that Rachel’s story hadn’t ended the way it did, period.