Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Review of 'The Color of the Elephant' by Christine Herbert

Who among us is brave enough to pick up everything and go live in a country where you don't know the language, the culture, even the food, and in addition, where the color of everyone's skin is different than your own?

Christine Herbert, the author of this captivating memoir "decided to trust [herself] like never before, to walk into each situation with an open mind and an open heart and let [her] tuition guide [her]."

Herbert's adventures in Zambia while serving in the Peace Corps, as told in The Color of the Elephant (GenZ Publishing, January 2022) take us on a fascinating ride. This is a well-written, page-turning story. We feel we are part of the author's journey as she learns not only about Zambia, but also about herself.

In the village where she serves, Herbert is a muzungu, a person of foreign descent. Not only that, she is white, a curiosity to the natives. For the first time in her life, she is in the minority. "I am reminded daily, either by words or by action, how very white I am. I couldn't forget my race if I tried," she writes.

Herbert's encounters with Zambia are colorful and entertaining, and full of description. As we read her story we are introduced to the maize-based, staple food of the country called nshima, served very, very hot. Young dancers practice the rituals of nyau, a trance-like channeling of an animal spirit. Women spend much time walking around on their knees when in the presence of a man. Herbert learns that when one goes to an outhouse, you need to ward off the snakes coiled at the base of the doorframes.

Despite the hardships of living in difficult conditions, of being away from her family, of coming down with repeated, debilitating cases of malaria, Herbert perseveres. What propels her forward is "a deep curiosity, about absolutely everything, and the courage to dive in and learn more, even at the expense of [her] own comfort."

Herbert is committed to her Peace Corps service and is determined to "see it through to the end. This job, this existence, has become the most important thing my life."

We are glad the author of this highly recommended book stuck it out. Not only have we witnessed how she came out of her experiences in a foreign country a better person, but her story also leaves us with a better understanding of cultures and lives so different from our own.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A Nail-Biting Story!

Mystery, suspense, and thriller are lumped into The Burgas Affair -- a fictional account of the aftermath of a real terrorist attack that took place in 2012 in Bulgaria.

We accompany a Bulgarian detective and a female Israeli intelligence data analyst temporarily seconded to Bulgaria during a joint investigation after a bomb explodes and kills a number of Israeli tourists on a bus at the Bulgarian airport.

The Burgas Affair is written from two different points of view: Detective Boyko Stanchev of the Bulgarian police task force is seen as a phlegmatic, scruffy, and inept individual while Ayala Navon is a disciplined and focused personality who becomes impatient with the pace of the investigation, especially when Boyko crosses the line of professional boundaries.

Despite initial hiccups and lugged by a troubled past, they both develop a growing attachment and affection as they try to bring the culprits to justice.

The novel ends on a note of bittersweet hopefulness.


This review of The Burgas Affair was posted on Amazon in March, 2022.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

"The Menu" - short story

Dennis skimmed through the menu and quickly made his selection. Prime New York Strip Steak with sides of Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Sautéed Mushrooms. No need for a starter with a heavy meal like that, but what wine would be appropriate? A Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon or a Pinot Noir? Admittedly, he could hardly distinguish one red from another, but from experience, he knew the right wine would make his steak dinner all the more enjoyable.

Bianca—that was his companion's name. Let's recap how they had met, he thought, as she concentrated on her menu. A blind date set up by mutual friends. He had been hesitant at first, but they insisted. He needed to get back in the game, they said, but he was still raw from his breakup with Mona.

Bianca. As she perused the menu, he smiled. She had an alluring face, green eyes, and shoulder-length blond hair. Quite attractive, actually. He knew absolutely nothing about her; that would soon change. His friends assured him she wasn't a vegetarian; that was why he booked a table at this upscale steakhouse, with its somewhat snobbish upholstered chairs, white linen tablecloths, and smartly uniformed staff. Seeing the overpriced entrées on the menu, he hoped the meal would be worth the expense.

Bianca's eyes went wide as she flipped through the menu pages. "Let me see…" she said.

Read the rest of the story at Umbrella Factory MagazineYou can read the story in one of three ways:

1) On the Umbrella Factory website

2) On this website, it's a little easier: 

3) Download the PDF and read offline.

"The Menu" is on page 14 of Issue 58.


Thursday, January 5, 2023

"Seven Blessings" - short story

I felt terribly uncomfortable at the wedding, standing to the side as exuberant yeshiva students danced around the hall in frenzied circles, while black-suited rabbis looked on with pride. I remained rigidly in place, finding no opportunity to approach and congratulate the bride and groom.

The wedding customs were foreign to me. There was little tradition in my secular lifestyle. That was why I had yet to find a bride for myself, my sister often lectured me. She became ultra-Orthodox after she married. Maybe she expected the same of me. Before I left, she invited me for Sheva B’rachot the next day.


Read the rest of the story on the The Jewish Literary Journal.

Photo by Aaron Ovadia on Unsplash

Sunday, January 1, 2023

2022 - My Writing Year in Review


It's seven in the morning at an Aroma coffee shop in Tel Aviv. There I am, typing on my laptop while drinking my cappuccino. Ignoring the other customers, the grinding of coffee beans, and the hiss of milk being steamed, I concentrate on my writing. Short stories. That's what I'm writing these days.

My three mornings a week at Aroma are when I'm the most productive. Ideas stream onto my screen and I write, revise, edit, improve. 2022 was quite a successful year for me. Eleven of my stories were published. Another 3 are scheduled to be published in early 2023.

Looking ahead into the new year I am very excited, very optimistic. I hope each of my stories will find a good place to be published, but more than that, I am hopeful that Rakiya, my collection of short stories set in Bulgaria, will be published in 2023.

I'm proud of what I accomplished in 2022. Here are my writing statistics for the year:

 

Short stories written

17

Story submissions (including simultaneous submissions)

201

Withdrawals

42

Acceptances

14

Published

11

Stories currently on submission

10

Active Submissions

43

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my stories and share my writing career!


Short stories published in 2022:

 

The Tiger - JewThink, January 5, 2022


Have a Nice Day - Written Tales Magazine, May 3, 2022

  

Heterochromia - Otherwise Engaged Journal, May 30, 2022                          

                   

Jupiter Aligned With Mars - 50 Word Stories, June 30, 2022


Night Shift - Across the Margin, July 19, 2022


Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov (book review) - World Literature Today, August 29, 2022      


Running in Time - On the Run, October 28, 2022

                    

A Stand-Up Comedian Walks Into a Bar - Esoterica, November 7, 2022   

                         

The Last Tweet - The Chamber Magazine, December 4, 2022


Mrs. Levinsky’s Old Fiat - Verdad Magazine, December 9, 2022


Musala - Ariel Chart, December 21, 2022                              


Stay tuned for my writing progress in 2023!

 

Related article:

2021 – My Year in Writing


Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

Thursday, December 22, 2022

"Musala" - short story


Mt. Musala is the highest mountain not only in Bulgaria but in the entire Balkan Peninsula. At an elevation of 2,925 meters above sea level, its peak is 10 meters higher than Mt. Olympus in Greece. The saying goes that whenever a Greek citizen climbs to the top of Olympus, they bring with them a stone. Enough stones and one day, Olympus would rise higher than Musala. Bulgarians would not be pleased if this happened.

“Hurry up! We’ll make it up there in no time.”

“Let me catch my breath!” I am not a mountain climber and in fact, the only time I get any exercise is by joining an occasional pickup game on the basketball courts. Yet here I am, attempting the ascent to Musala’s peak at the insistence of Angel, my companion on the summer hike. Angel, with a hard ‘g’ like angle, only spelled differently. Angel, my host on a whirlwind one-week visit to Bulgaria.

“You must climb Musala if you want to really know Bulgaria,” he told me when we set off on the two-hour drive south from Sofia to the mountain.

“I thought we were going to the Rila Lakes,” I replied, remembering reading about the seven glacial lakes.

“Too many people there on the weekends. I knew you would prefer something more challenging. Mount Musala.”

Read the rest of the story on Ariel Chart.

Friday, December 9, 2022

"Mrs. Levinsky’s Old Fiat" - short story


I can’t remember when I last saw Mrs. Levinsky. She lives across the hall from me and I pass by her door every morning on my way to work, and again when I return home in the evenings, but I never see her. Not even on weekends.

I have occasionally wondered whether Mrs. Levinsky still lives in that apartment. Maybe she passed away in her sleep. After all, she is quite elderly. Perhaps she suffered a fatal fall? No, she is definitely alive. When I walk in the hall, I hear the sound of a chair scraping across the floor. A kettle coming to a boil. A radio news broadcast. She’s alive, and she’s inside. But her door never opens.

I distinctly remember seeing her the day I moved into my third-floor apartment on Matta Street. That was four years ago. I had just moved to Tel Aviv from the kibbutz where I grew up. Finding available apartments in Tel Aviv is nearly impossible, but I got lucky. My good friend Shira was moving to a new place and I took over her rental contract.

“Who are you?”

I stopped for breath after struggling up the steep stairs, dragging two heavy suitcases filled with all the clothes I owned. I smiled at the frail, slightly stooped, gray-haired woman with large round glasses. Mrs. Levinsky. She took a step back and clutched her apartment door.

“Rami Harel. I’m moving into Shira’s place.”

“Shira? Who is that?”

“Shira used to live here. She’s getting married.”

“Who are you?” my neighbor asked again, as if I hadn’t previously introduced myself.

I nodded at her and went into my new home.


Read the rest of the story on Verdad Magazine.

Photo by Ramiro Mendes on Unsplash

Monday, December 5, 2022

"The Last Tweet" - short story

He was a middle-aged businessman from London; she introduced herself as a hospital nurse who lived in Nairobi. They met by chance, in a virtual way, because they were both enthralled by the fiction of Haruki Murakami. It wasn't clear if he followed her first, or if she was the one to initiate the conversation, but soon they were chatting regularly, in 280 characters or less.

And then their tweets went private, becoming direct message exchanges that were far more personal and far more intimate than what was permissible in an open Twitter feed. He told her of his marital frustrations and she said she was a single mother, working long shifts to make ends meet. Then, on a drunken impulse, he revealed that he had never had sex with a black woman. This was something about which he often fantasized. She tweeted back that she had never slept with a white man. She admitted that thoughts of this type of relationship turned her on.


Read the rest of the story on The Chamber Magazine.