I love New York. I lived in Manhattan for a few months when I was twenty-two in a tiny bachelor apartment I shared with my best friend. I visited many times since (though it’s been a while). So I am excited about spending time there and catching up with old friends.
Israeli contemporary literature has undergone a shift over the last decade. For decades its international reputation was dominated by men who were representative of Israel’s establishment, which was mostly of European descent — like Amos Oz and David Grossman.
But in recent years a new crop of authors have been translated into English, and they offer a much more cosmopolitan picture of Israeli society. Some prominent examples include Sayed Kashua, who writes in Hebrew from the perspective of a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel. Dorit Rabinyan, whose writing is informed by her Persian roots. Sara Shilo, whose widely praised novel “The Falafel King is Dead” is set in an impoverished town on the Lebanese border that is populated primarily by Jews of North African descent. Haim Sabato, whose prize winning novels describe Israel through the eyes of a religious soldier from a Syrian family. And the Iraqi-born Sami Michael, who sets many of his novels in his native country.
Joining these diverse voices is Ayelet Tsabari, an Israeli woman of Yemenite descent who identifies as an Arab Jew. Last year she published her debut collection of short stories in English, titled “The Best Place on Earth.” Writing in English rather than her native Hebrew, Tsabari describes in vivid, confident, earthy prose an Israel and an Israeliness that are deeply recognizable to anyone who has lived there and knows Hebrew, but are all-but unknown abroad. Her mostly young, Mizrahi and secular characters live universal experiences of love, family and grief against a particularly Israeli backdrop that includes the sealed rooms and gas masks of the 1991 Gulf War, mandatory army service, the post-army trip to India that has become a rite of passage, and the wave of suicide bombings of 2001-2. Multicultural and sensual,Tsabari’s stories take the reader to the vibrant heart of contemporary Israeli society.
To RSVP (did I mention the Middle Eastern treats?) click here.