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Miriam Gil knows little about Israel. Her father won’t talk about his life there or the brother he left behind when he came to Canada. Hurt and angry when he tells her to move out to make room for his new girlfriend, she enrolls in an Israeli university. She falls in love with Guy, a former combat soldier who dreams of peace. Miriam is caught off guard when her visa and passport application are rejected on the grounds that she’s suspected of being a Syrian Christian. In rapid order, the university boots her out, her one friend is killed in a brawl, and Miriam is accused of murder by Israeli police. Despite troubling revelations about her father’s past, Miriam must reconcile with him if she is to prove her innocence, reclaim her life, and hang on to her newfound love.

Book Club Discussion Questions for Passport Control 

1. Why do you think the title of this book is Passport Control? Would you have chosen a different title? One publisher suggested the title of No Way Home. Do you think that title is preferable?

2. Would you say Passport Control is historical fiction? A coming of age story? An adventure story? Other? How would you categorize this work?

3. In the book there is a lot of discussion of identity. What roles our identities play in our lives, multiple identities, weak and strong identities. Did you empathize with much of the discussion? What role does your identity play in your life and which ones (religious, national,ethnic, other)?

4. Do you think Miriam's father understood why his daughter went to Israel? Have you ever been in this situation as a parent or with your own parent?

5. Miriam is reluctant to sign the letter her roommate wants her to sign? Why? Do you think she made the right decision in the end? What would you have done in her place?

6. Miriam is accused of murdering her close friend. Have you ever been accused of something you didn't do? What were the ramifications? Do you think Miriam paid a price for this accusation?

7. What role does Guy play in the novel? Is he a typical boyfriend? Do you believe Miriam is sincere in her feelings for him?

8. What would you like to see happen to Miriam in the future? Do you think she should leave her father again and return to Israel or convince her father to come with her?

9. Do you think Miriam's uncle is an ethical character? Why or why not? Did he do the right thing going behind his wife's back to help his niece? 

10. What did you learn about the various peoples in Israel from this novel? Anything you did not know before? Did it make you want to visit Israel or another Middle Eastern country?

Excerpt from Passport Control
My back straightens at the word pig. I am used to French Canadians complaining against discrimination in the workplace, in the government, in the media, but somehow Farzeen disarms me with her accusations against a state I’d lived in only for two hours in a taxi, except, of course, I have that vein that connects me with my Jerusalem-born, Arabic speaking father, but I’m cutting him out of my life. Still, as jet lagged and disoriented as I am, that vein begins to pulse. "I really don’t know much about it. I mean, that’s why I came here to study it, isn’t it?"
Gila Green reads from Passport Control in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda shuk

Reviews of Passport Control

  • I absolutely loved Passport Control ( It was interesting to follow the (mis)adventures of Miriam. She is certainly an engaging and relatable protagonist. Usually, when I read first-person POVs, I’m left wondering what it would be like to get in the head of other characters. I’m more into omniscient storytelling in both what I read and write. But Miriam delivered. I didn’t feel the need to know the inner workings of other characters’ minds.

    This is not to say the novel doesn’t feature interesting secondary characters. It certainly does. But none are as vulnerable, relatable, and interesting as Miriam.

    I keep mentioning how relatable Miriam is, even though we have more differences than similarities.

    For instance, I’ve felt like a fish out of water when I spent a term with four roommates in my university’s dormitory, but these people were from the same country. I was in the city I was born and raised in. They shared the same religion (or at least the lack of it). We were the same age. But still, culturally and personally, we couldn’t be more different. I felt completely alone until I found my own people, and that took a while. But the Gila Green has captured those feelings so well. (Conversely, I spent two semesters in another country with people from all over the world. I’d never felt more at home.)

    There are other aspects of the story where I felt her pain about the actions of some family members, as well the pain of passport troubles, but I’m not going to reveal who and what. We can discuss privately after you’ve read the novel.

    The title of the novel is just perfect. It is relevant and catchy without revealing any of the twists. But it makes even more sense after you learn more and more.

    To sum it up, I recommend this emotional page-turner. In addition to the tensions, drama, and conflicts, it is a fun read that makes you look forward to reading more from Gila Green. And stay tuned, because an interview with her is coming up soon.

     Pinar Tarhan, Addicted to Writing 
  • Am Amazing Book

    Passport Control is an amazing book with lots of plot twists and mystery. It tells the story of a Canadian Jew, Miriam Gil, who comes to Haifa University to study. She gets involved with many unexpected people and events. Passport Control is fiction, but to be honest, it's clear that everything Green writes about is a real possibility. 

    I've been in Israel for close to half a century, and nothing surprises me. Even though I've never studied in an Israeli university, I can see how a naive Canadian student can find herself in the situations that Green places Miriam Gil. There is a lot of material about the Israel of a few decades ago, which is so different from Modern high tech Israel.

    Reading Passport Control is a good way to learn about what Israel was once like. I highly recommend the book and truly enjoyed reading it. It's suitable for older teens and adults.

    Some things have changed so much in recent years, but I think that nowadays there's even more contact between Jews and Arabs, especially in Israeli universities. Foreigners would most probably be shocked at how much integration there really is.
    Batya Medad, Shiloh Musings 
  • Thank you for the excellent read!

    Overflowing with drama, politics, personality, and angst, Gila Green's Passport Control delivers on all these fronts.

    It's 1992. When twenty year old Miriam learns that she is no longer welcome to live in her father's Ottawa home, she heads off to her parents' native Israel to continue her studies at Haifa University. Hoping to find out more about her estranged family, Miriam ends up tangled in a web of old secrets, vengeance, and pain. Green does not give Miriam or her readers the satisfaction of a true coming of age tale. Instead, she offers us the richer, messier journey of a young woman whose search for greater understanding leads to a more honest confusion.

    Green plants Miriam in the Israel of the Oslo peace process, a time and place that highlights her naivite and ignorance about "the real Israel". Green expects her readers to catch up just as quickly. From the Haifa University dorms and dining room to Jerusalem's Old City and a northern kibbutz, Green's writing gets directly to the core of Israeli society. Green presents her characters and their setting in vivid detail, while still allowing her readers to make their own emotional connections to the time and places in Miriam's story. Throughout Miriam's experiences Green weaves a sophisticated commentary on the political and socio-economic divisions in Israel and Diaspora Jewry. This is a tremendous gift to readers who will understand all its subtleties. Book clubs will find an endless stream of discussion topics. Casual readers will appreciate Green's ability to fit so much nuance in a tightly written narrative. Like Miriam, all will emerge with a greater empathy for those who need to live with a complicated past.

    Rabbi Deborah Miller, Books and Blintzes

  • Couldn't Put It Down!

    The key to a good book is when you can't put it down :)
    I just finished your book yesterday. I read 'til late. I couldn't put it down!
    I really enjoyed it.

    Melanie Bloch

  • Stunning Achievement

    Many novels have attempted to orchestrate the impossible marriage of politics and human relations in the state of Israel, but few have presided over that perilous ceremony with the grace, affection, and emotional clarity of Gila Green's Passport Control. A stunning achievement.

    Steve Stern, author of The Book of Mischief

  • Smart, Sympathetic, Admirable

    Gila Green’s passionate novel, Passport Control, is a mosaic of one family’s secrets set against the background of Israel’s multiple, conflicting identities. It is smart and sympathetic, admirable in both intent and execution.

    Melvin Jules Bukiet, author of Strange Fire and other novels

  • Could Not Stop Reading

    I could not stop reading. There is no higher compliment than that. You have captured some truly wonderful, funny, but lunatic moments of a world that you have uniquely captured and rendered with amazing detachment. Many of these pages will leave readers grappling with a sense of their own identities as they left me.

    Mark Mirsky, author of Blue Hill Avenue and Fiction Magazine editor

  • Phenomenal Book!

    Phenomenal Book!

    Alexa, Amazon Customer in Canada

  • Page Turner

    I did find the story to be a page turner and believe it will do well with Jewish readers. I found the story compelling and the characters interesting. The Palestinian character, Farzeen is clearly more complicated than we observe, although hints are given.

    Cathy Tile

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