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The Search for a Book Cover

Before the title for my book A Land Twice Promised: An Israeli Woman’s Quest for Peace,was ever finalized (indeed before I even finished writing the book), my publisher Familius sent me a draft of the book cover to look at.

It came into my inbox in the middle of the National Storytelling Network annual conference in Kansas City. I loved the frame in the design of the arched gateway, but through it was a photo of the Old City in Jerusalem, making the book cover look like one of those glossy tourist brochures you find in a travel agency.

I have never published a book before. What does one do if one does not like the book cover? I looked around for advice. I started asking for the opinions of my storytelling peers.
Some people liked it.

Someone else said, “If the publisher suggests this, they know best how to sell the book. Just save yourself the headache and go with what they say.”
Others urged me to insist on changes. But then another storyteller with more experience in the publishing world shook his head and said, “You can try telling them what you think, but the reality is that publishers do what they want and writers don’t have much say.”

I was mortified by the idea that the book that means so much to me would have a cover I didn’t like, but I dreaded the idea of having to confront my publisher.
Once again, I was faced with my self-doubts and had to figure out how to stay true to my own voice and rise above the other voices. It echoed the struggle I describe in my book about deciding to give voice not only to my own story but to the story of my Palestinian friend.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 12:

How dare I, an Israeli, speak as if I’m a Palestinian? Who am I to presume to understand or give voice to such an experience?

I saw images of furious Palestinians glaring beneath dark eyebrows, insulted and hateful at yet another condescending act of the conqueror. “Who do you think you are to speak for us?” their venom-dripping voices hissed through the corridors of my mind.

“Nu, you and all those yefe nefesh—the bleeding hearts—talk about their suffering…what about ours?!” admonished my mother’s righteous voice in the dark of night.

“Shame on you, traitor! Instead of defending your own, you go justify these murderers that want to throw us into the sea?” screamed the ancestral voices engraved in my DNA.

“Arab lover!” hollered the familiar curse thrown in contempt at anyone trying to advocate for Palestinians’ rights.

Am I a condescending monster? Am I a traitor to my people?

Arab and Jew alike, they spit three times like my grandmother and cursed me.

Jumana [my Palestinian friend] encouraged me and had complete confidence that I would do it justice, but alas, the voices pressed upon you since childhood do not evaporate politely upon request. No matter how hard I tried, I could only mute them temporarily. But mute them I did, and drawing on my trusted theater roots, I plunged in.

I knew that my book was not a travel guide to Jerusalem and it meant too much to accept a cover I did not like.

I turned to Elizabeth Ellis, one of America’s greatest storytellers and a dear friend and she said in her melodic Appalachian tinged voice: “Oh I don’t think you need to worry. Just give them a call and why not offer them one of your mother’s paintings of Jerusalem? I think that could be lovely!”

Jerusalem by Zipporet Kohen-Raz  
      View from Mt. Scopus, by Zipporet Kohen-Raz

I adore that woman! What a brilliant idea! I’ve always loved my mother’s paintings, in particular her sweeping lyrical watercolors and oil landscapes of Jerusalem. My mother, Zipporet Kohen-Raz, began painting when I was ten years old and became an accomplished artist with exhibits in Israel and Paris. I chose three that I particularly liked and send them to the designer.

Turns out Familius is a different kind of publisher. They welcome and encourage dialogue with their authors. The designer, David Miles not only allowed me to have my say, he was completely open and eager to hear my ideas. He loved the paintings I sent him and instantly chose a detail from one that fit the initial gateway design perfectly. He insisted on working and reworking it until it was exactly as I wanted it. The entire process was a complete joy.

I am so blessed to have had this experience! Take a look at this gorgeous cover:


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