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Chang photographed by Ayelet Tsabari and Tsabari photographed by Jonathan Bloom

Between Us: The Stories We Keep

Interview by Jasmine Sealy 

Welcome back to Between Us, a conversation series that explores how we define Canadian immigrant literature, and how writers’ journeys to Canada shape their work. Here, writers discuss the tensions and freedoms that come with access to stories of home-place, and the many ways immigrant stories contribute to the Canadian cultural imaginary.

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An Interview with Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet Tsabari (photo by Sean Brereton)

Ayelet Tsabari (photo by Sean Brereton)

By Melissa Janae

Toronto-based Ayelet Tsabari has worked with storytelling in many forms: as a freelance journalist for the second-largest newspaper in Israel, a photographer, a documentary film director, and an award-winning writer of fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work has been published in Grain, Prairie Fire, and Event, among other literary magazines. The Best Place on Earth, her debut short story collection, was released by HarperCollins in 2013.

Were there particular themes that you wanted to explore in The Best Place on Earth? What inspired them?

I find myself drawn toward the same themes over and over again: belonging, displacement, immigration, cultural clashes, questions of home and identity. I was a nomad and a traveller for most of my twenties. I’m also an immigrant who still spends a lot of time in her country of origin. I’ve never been able to really let go of Israel and I miss it all the time. So these are the themes that occupy me. I also wanted to explore that sense of tension and contention that is threaded through everyday life in Israel. How easy it is to get used to; how messed up it is that we do.

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Review: “The Best Place on Earth: Stories” by Ayelet Tsabari

best place on earthThe Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabari
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. (2013)

Review by Melissa Janae

What makes someone part of a place? Must they be born there? Do they have to share the same heritage? Is it a matter of speaking the same language, or passing through the same rituals?

Ayelet Tsabari deftly explores these questions and others in The Best Place on Earth. Set in Israel, Canada, and India, these stories are fraught with conflict. In “Tikkun,” Lior passes by a group of people watching news of a pigua—Hebrew for terror attack—before having coffee with the ex-girlfriend he never truly got over. Teenaged Uri weathers missile attacks in Ramat Gan during Operation Desert Storm in “The Poets in the Kitchen Window.” The poets are Uri and his sister Yasmin, and while he always dazzled his sister during metaphor games at the kitchen table, Uri has “never heard of a Yemeni or Iraqi poet, or any Mizrahi poet for that matter.” During “Invisible,” Rosalynn moves to Israel from the Philippines to find work as a caretaker to the elderly. Rosalynn also finds a home in her new country, even though, as her visa’s expired, she has no legal place there.

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