What Makes Us

Rafi Mit­tle­fehldt

January 1, 2013

Eran Sharon knows noth­ing of his father except that he left when Eran was a baby. Now a senior in high school and liv­ing with his pro­tec­tive but tight-lipped moth­er, Eran is a pas­sion­ate young man deeply inter­est­ed in social jus­tice and equal­i­ty. When he learns that the Hous­ton police have launched a pro­gram to increase traf­fic stops, Eran orga­nizes a peace­ful protest. But a heat­ed moment at the protest goes viral, and a reporter con­nects the Sharon fam­i­ly to a tragedy fif­teen years ear­li­er — and asks if Eran is any­thing like his father, a sup­posed ter­ror­ist. Soon enough, Eran is won­der­ing the same thing, espe­cial­ly when the peo­ple he’s gone to school and tem­ple with for years start to look at him dif­fer­ent­ly. Time­ly, pow­er­ful, and full of nuance, Rafi Mittlefehldt’s sopho­more nov­el con­fronts the prej­u­dices, fears, and strengths of fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty, strik­ing right to the heart of what makes us who we are.

Discussion Questions

Eran Sharon, an Israeli-Amer­i­can teenag­er, has always cared deeply about social jus­tice. When a protest he leads in Hous­ton, Texas gets media atten­tion, reporters find out some­thing he nev­er knew: his father, a man he bare­ly remem­bers, was killed short­ly after com­mit­ting a dead­ly act of domes­tic ter­ror­ism at an Israeli Day parade when Eran was not yet two years old. As the news spreads, Hous­ton turns against Eran and his moth­er with dizzy­ing speed. A grow­ing xeno­pho­bic and anti­se­mit­ic move­ment ris­es around them, iso­lat­ing Eran and feed­ing his own doubts about his past and his future. Does his anger, which some­times spins into uncon­trol­lable fury, mean he will meet the same fate as his father? This res­o­nant, relat­able nov­el tack­les com­plex themes with humor and empa­thy. Mittlefehldt’s care­ful­ly-writ­ten prose hon­ors the lit­tle moments that tru­ly shape us — con­nec­tions with new and old friends, dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions, and thrilling night­time epiphanies.