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In this moving and thought-provoking memoir, a historian offers a personal look at the fallibilities of memory and the lingering impact of trauma as she goes back fifty years to tell the story of being a passenger on an airliner hijacked in 1970.
On September 6, 1970, twelve-year-old Martha Hodes and her thirteen-year-old sister were flying unaccompanied back to New York City from Israel when their plane was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and forced to land in the Jordan desert. Too young to understand the sheer gravity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Martha coped by suppressing her fear and anxiety. Nearly a half-century later, her memories of those six days and nights as a hostage are hazy and scattered. Was it the passage of so much time, or that her family couldn’t endure the full story, or had trauma made her repress such an intense life-and-death experience? A professional historian, Martha wanted to find out.
Drawing on deep archival research, childhood memories, and conversations with relatives, friends, and fellow hostages, Martha Hodes sets out to re-create what happened to her, and what it was like for those at home desperately hoping for her return. Thrown together inside a stifling jetliner, the hostages forged friendships, provoked conflicts, and dreamed up distractions. Learning about the lives and causes of their captors—some of them kind, some frightening—the sisters pondered a deadly divide that continues today.
A thrilling tale of fear, denial, and empathy, My Hijacking sheds light on the hostage crisis that shocked the world, as the author comes to a deeper understanding of both what happened in the Jordan desert in 1970 and her own fractured family and childhood sorrows.
Martha Hodes is professor of history at New York University. She is the author of the award-winning books Mourning Lincoln; The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century; and White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South. She has presented her scholarship around the world and is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Charles Warren Center at Harvard University, the Whiting Foundation, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
“Intriguing. . . . What gives her book its propulsive force [is] her effort not only to piece together the details of the hijacking and its aftermath, but to make sense of the omissions in her own memory. . . . Hodes examines the episode with a historian’s meticulousness and a reporter’s zeal.”
— New York Times
“In reclaiming her personal history, Ms. Hodes has provided a lesson for us all in the power of memory both to conceal and heal.” — Wall Street Journal
"In this singular and riveting book, Martha Hodes uses her considerable skills as a prize-winning historian to reconstruct her own experiences as a young girl aboard a hijacked plane in the Jordan desert in 1970. Taking multiple paths into the question of why she remembered so little of what she lived and felt during that traumatic event, Hodes has given us a moving and unforgettable meditation not just on history and memory, but also on family and the silences they guard." — Ada Ferrer, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cuba: An American History
"Everything about this story is a surprise and it is told by one of the most fascinating, imaginative scholars now at work in American history." — Darryl Pinckney, author of Come Back in September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan
"A poignant and perceptive study of what it takes to heal." — Publishers Weekly
"My Hijacking is a historian’s riveting account of having been, as a child, made an unwilling participant in a historic event. A skillful combination of memoir and history, Hodes’s talents as a historian and writer are on full display in this beautifully written and deeply affecting work." — Annette Gordon-Reed, New York Times bestselling author of On Juneteenth
"Martha Hodes is one of the best writers in the profession of American historians. In this book she transcends the art of history as she also practices it, crafting a memoir of gripping power and courage about her "voyage into forgetting and remembering". Hodes delivers something sacred - a heroic search to "unbury" a terrible piece of her own past in records, but especially in her disconnected memory. She creates her own genre - a devotional narrative about the mystery of memory and truth, accomplished with humility and intrepid determination. [An] unforgettable book." — David W. Blight, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
"Revolutionary, revelatory, and deeply moving, My Hijacking starts where other memoirs stop--at the absolute limits of memory. A terrific work of suspense and a magnificent achievement that sets a new benchmark for the genre." — Nell Zink, author of Avalon
"An extraordinary task . . . . Hodes calls the book a 'personal history' rather than a memoir, and that is apt. If memoir brings the devices of fiction to the task of autobiography, then Hodes has brought the instruments and procedures of historical biography to her own personal narrative. [Hodes] demonstrates a keen and subtle eye.” — New Republic
"My Hijacking is a tremendous account of an event now widely forgotten, and would be valuable enough for that. It is even more a fascinating meditation on what and why people remember – and what and why they forget." — New Humanist