Ayelet Tsabari - 2016 Edward Lewis Wallant Award Recipient
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Ayelet Tsabari

2016 Edward Lewis Wallant Award Recipient

Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet Tsabari was born in Israel to a large family of Yemeni descent. She grew up in a suburb of Tel Aviv, served in the Israeli army, and traveled extensively throughout South East Asia, Europe and North America. Ayelet was first published at the age of ten in an Israeli children’s magazine, and worked as a freelance journalist from the age of fifteen, mostly writing for Maariv. In 1998 Ayelet moved to Vancouver, Canada and studied film and photography in Capilano University’s Media Program. She directed two documentary films, one of which won an award at the Palm Spring International Short Film Festival. In 2006, she wrote her first story in English. Tsabari was named by CBC Books as one of ten Canadian Writers to Watch and was awarded a Chalmers Arts Fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council. Her work has won a National Magazine Award, a Western Magazine Award, and an Edna Staebler Award. She is also a two-time winner of the Event Creative Non-Fiction Contest . She is a graduate of Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio, and the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph. Tsabari currently teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education.

The Best Place on Earth, won the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and was nominated for The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The book has been published internationally to great acclaim. Ayelet Tsabari’s stories are global in scope yet intimate in feel, beautifully written, and emotionally powerful. From Israel to India to Canada, Tsabari’s indelible characters grapple with love, violence, faith, the slipperiness of identity, and the challenges of balancing old traditions with modern times. The eleven stories often focus on Israel’s Mizrahi Jews, featuring mothers and children, soldiers and bohemians, lovers and best friends, all searching for their place in the world.

Reviewers have unanimously praised the collection:

  • “Stunning… Tsabari creates complex, conflicted, prickly people you’ll want to get to know better.” Kirkus, starred review

  • “It’s impossible not to be awestruck by the depth and power rendered in Tsabari’s stories—she does so much with so little.” Elle.com; 16 Novels by Women Everyone Will Be Talking About in 2016

  • “Warm, intimate, and humane.” New York Journal of Books

  • “This short story collection is a fiction debut for Tsabari, but it demonstrates that she is already a talented storyteller. Her writing has an immediacy and power that invites readers into her characters’ psyches… Tsabari’s characters will step off the page to captivate readers.” —Publishers Weekly

  • “With these stories, Tsabari has helped create a new type of Jewish immigrant storytelling.” Haaretz

  • “To read Tsabari is to see Israeliness, which was intended as a remedy for the ills of Diasporic Jewishness, turn into a new kind of Diasporic identity. It is a fascinating transformation, and The Best Place on Earth may be the herald of a whole new genre of Jewish literature.” Tablet

  • “Compassionate, compelling… Her stories speak out from from the heart of Israeli society and experiences. The stories of The Best Place on Earth leave you wishing they wouldn’t end. Highly recommended.” —The Times of Israel

  • “I didn’t want to put down The Best Place on Earth. Ayelet Tsabari’s first book is a smart, sexy, and absorbing collection of short stories.” —Ottawa Jewish Bulletin

  • “Poignant, slice-of-life, humane tales. Tsabari’s descriptions are colourful and vibrant. A great start from a promising writer.” —Canadian Jewish News