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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (40 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Emily Raboteau Narrator: Quincy Tyler Bernstine Publisher: Brilliance Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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 the age of twenty-three, award-winning writer Emily Raboteau traveled to Israel to visit her childhood best friend. While her friend appeared to have found a place to belong, Raboteau could not yet 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, Jr. She understood it as a metaphor for freedom, a spiritual realm rather than a geographical one. Now in Israel, the Jewish Zion, she was surprised to discover black Jews. More surprising was the story of how they got there. Inspired by their exodus, Raboteau sought out other black communities that left home in search of a Promised Land. Her question for them is same she asks herself: have you found the home you’re looking for?

On her ten-year journey back in time and around the globe, through the Bush years and into the age of Obama, Raboteau wanders to Jamaica, Ethiopia, Ghana, 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 family, people who have risked everything in search of territory that is hard to define and harder to inhabit.

Uniting memoir with historical and cultural investigation, 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This is a beautifully written and thought-provoking book. My head gets blown off every page. Though it describes Raboteau’s very unique journey for her spiritual Zion, it’s somehow wholly universal, too. Everywhere she goes, she hopes to find some straight and golden thread that would draw a line in the direction home, but instead she finds a tangle of humanity that refuses to adhere to any tidy narrative. An African-American named Robert E. Lee who lives in Ghana. Ethiopian Jews who find Jerusalem but not acceptance. And yet everyone she meets she renders with great deftness and empathy—a novelistic level of detail and understanding. I doubt there will be a more important work of nonfiction this year.”

    Dave Eggers, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Emily Raboteau has written a poignant, passionate, human-scale memoir about the biggest things: identity, faith, and the search for a place to call home in the world. Searching for Zion is as reaching as it is intimate, as original as it is old soul. I didn’t want to put this beautiful book down.”

    Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author

  • “A brilliant illustration of the ways in which race is an artificial construct that, like beauty, is often a matter of perspective.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Thoughtful, well researched, and deeply fascinating.”

    Washington Post

  • “An instructive read...[Raboteau] finds the ground she wants to make her own, and she sinks her roots there.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Raboteau’s voice is as complex as her journey. Her descriptions are cogent and striking. Her irreverence and gumption provide comic relief and invite the reader to want to be friends with this scribe whose mouth sometimes gets her in trouble, and who ultimately seems to be as tough as she is vulnerable. It is undoubtedly an intellectual's path, filled with detailed discussions of African American religious history, Rastafarian theology, Ethiopian history and ending with a brilliant analysis of the prosperity gospel of evangelical mega-churches.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “[Raboteau’s] detailed depictions flash with insight and beauty. A section on slave tourism in Ghana is frankly fascinating, as are the sections on visiting Birmingham, Alabama, and Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “In her frank and expansive new memoir, Emily Raboteau in essence fans out series of interpretive Rorschach blots, images gathered on an ambitious journey around the globe. She displays them end to end, like a storyboard: Each impressionistic, deeply personal vignette is a building block, detailing her far-flung search for ‘home’—a ‘promised land’ that’s as brick-and-mortar tangible as it is spiritually confirming.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “In this profound and accessible meditation on race, novelist and scholar Raboteau depicts her travels from Israel and Jamaica to Africa and the Deep South in search of the elusive African-American notion of ‘home.’”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “No quest for home is ever limited to a simple place, and [Raboteau] evokes that reality beautifully…A fresh perspective [on the] elusive concept of home.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “The deeply rooted questions about race, belonging, identity, and travel in this memoir may remind listeners of Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father. A female narrator with a strong, declarative voice is an excellent choice for one woman’s story of her personal journey to place her multicultural heritage within a modern context. Quincy Bernstine’s consistent dramatic persona makes sense of the book’s dizzying trajectory, which includes trips to Israel, Ethiopia, and New York, among others. Some may find the delivery unpleasant because the tone is strident and the pace unrelenting. For the most part, though, the intense cadence mirrors the cultural and racial musings of the author.”


  • A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2013 in Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Bridgett Davis | 8/30/2013

    " Wonderful combination of travelogue, social history and memoir. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Keri Day | 8/10/2013

    " This book was excellent and inspirational. It provided a much needed investigation into ideas of identity, belonging, and ultimately salvation. This book is a must read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Priya Mukhopadhyay | 7/21/2013

    " Contemplative and addressing a universal question of 'finding home', Raboteau's latest is an awe-inspiring piece of work that deserves the attention it is receiving. Check it: it's one of the year's must reads in several 'Books of the Year' lists as well. Such as this one! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Tamela | 2/22/2013

    " Everyone in America should read this book. Of course, there will be those who dislike it. But they should still read it, to make them think. "

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