Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie
by Rachel Corrie

W.W. Norton, 2008. ISBN 978-0-393-06571-8.
Reviewed by Susan Andrus
Posted on 05/27/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: History/Current Events

Journals offer private thoughts not intended for an audience; rather, they serve as a means of sorting out life's challenges and exposing one's inner demons. Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie leads the reader into Rachel's inner world as she negotiates the challenges of adolescence and early adulthood. Sadly, her life comes to an untimely end when she faced down a bulldozer that was about to destroy a Palestinian home in Gaza.

Early in her life, Rachel's literary abilities shine through her poetry as she expresses her delight in nature and small creatures that cross her path. At eleven, on the death of her grandfather, she remarks her own selfishness as she sleeps while others are grieving. She says, "I have already grown bored of being sad and I am ready to go back to being normal." How wise she is to identify that universal feeling.

Many of Rachel's musings reflect her attitude toward death. At fourteen, she says, "Death smells like homemade applesauce as it cooks on the stove." At eighteen, "If I die today,...you must burn the papers under my bed...to charred leaves of ash...You must silence my dead voice...so it will not embarrass my memory." Her journals definitely reflect her inner thoughts, conflicts, and behaviors that might be embarrassing, and I wonder whether she would have wanted them published.

A trip to Russia became a turning point for Rachel. A girl who lived a sheltered, privileged life, she returned from her journey a woman with a mission, awakened by "the initial disappointment in discovering that my government really did lie to me about the Russians, and in the massive absence of justice in the world, and again...in discovering my participation in the subjugation of other people." This experience led her to become an activist during her college years and then took her to Israel to support the Palestinians as they suffered through repeated US-backed Israeli attacks on their families and homes.

Because of the intensely personal nature of the writings, it was difficult at times to read the revelations in these pages—the self-deprecation, the self-destructive behaviors, the lists of self-improvement tasks—and I felt uncomfortable looking into the private thoughts of someone who didn't sound as if she would like me to read them. I also felt that the pace of the book was slow and the final outcome depressing. But it comes together at the end, when Rachel writes long emails to her family and friends outlining her political convictions and showing her journalistic potential. Her life abruptly ended just three weeks short of her twenty-fifth birthday.

Rachel Corrie was born on April 10, 1979 in Olympia, WA. In January, 2003, after completing liberal arts studies at The Evergreen State College, she traveled to Israel and Palestine, where she served as a nonviolent peace activist and human rights observer until her death on March 16, 2003.

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