Ayelet Tsabari answers three questions in the ongoing series for the tenth anniversary of Canadian Writers Abroad. Ayelet Tsabari was born in Israel to a large family of Yemeni descent. She is the author of The Art of Leaving, finalist for the Writer’s Trust Hilary Weston Prize, winner of the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for memoir, and an Apple Books and Kirkus Review Best Book of 2019. Her first book, The Best Place on Earth, won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. She teaches creative writing at The University of King’s College MFA and at Bar Ilan University. She lives in Tel Aviv.
Aaron Kreuter reviewed Tsabari’s The Art of Leaving (HarperCollins Canada 2019) in January 2019.
CWA: Where were you and what were you doing ten years ago?
Tsabari: Ten years ago I was living in Toronto. I was pregnant with my child and months before publishing my first book.
CWA: You’ve described yourself as an “accidental immigrant” and in the same Globe article said, “Truth is, there is no art to leaving. Leaving is messy…” – and yet, departure can lead to reinvention. Now that you’ve moved back to Israel, where are you on this trajectory of messy/reinvention? Would you recommend displacement to other writers?
Tsabari: The thing is, by moving back twenty years later I felt displaced again. It was not a return but reverse migration. So again, there was a chance for reinvention. I would never recommend displacement to anyone. It can be a fracture and a wound. But there is no doubt in my mind that the process of migration has inspired and informed my writing, and I’m grateful for it.
CWA: What are you working on now?
Tsabari: I’m revising a novel about similar themes of displacement and belonging.
Truth is, there is no art to leaving. Leaving is messy, a fracture, an unravelling. And returning does not fix it. It’s also possible that this is no return at all, but another phase in a series of departures. It is too soon to tell. For now, I am here.–Ayelet Tsabari, “After 20 Years in Canada..,” The Globe and Mail (April 5, 2019).
Credit for all photos: Ayelet Tsabari.