Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Review of 'Victorious' by Yishai Sarid

Military service in Israel is mandatory, although the ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis are exempt from conscription. The majority of young men who serve, as well as a growing number of women, do so in combat units. Training to serve in a combat unit takes a physical toll on recruits, but they pay a stiff psychological price as well.

In this novel, Abigail, an Israeli Defense Forces lieutenant colonel, serves as a mental health officer in her reserve duty. In this position, she has gained a “gateway into the soul of the military,” and she is well aware of how army commanders transform new recruits from young civilians into battle-ready machines, capable of anything, including killing. In fact, Abigail has become an “expert on the psychology of killing.”

Read the rest of the review on World Literature Today.

Related article:

Review of 'The Memory Monster' by Yishai Sarid

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Announcement: "Rakiya" to Be Published by GenZ Publishing!

I am proud to announce that Rakiya: Stories of Bulgaria will be published by GenZ Publishing. The book is set for release at the end of this year or early next year.

The twelve heartwarming and culturally illuminating stories in Rakiya introduce readers to Bulgaria—its majestic mountains; picturesque villages; rich history; and traditions—and leaves them wanting more.

A gypsy pickpockets tourists in order to support her daughter. An elderly war veteran seeks atonement for his role in the Holocaust. Two brothers hunt down a marauding killer bear. A Syrian refugee doctor bakes pitas for a living. A femme fatale disappears at an international writers’ conference. And two neighbors compete to see who makes the best alcoholic drink.

Several of the stories in Rakiya have been previously been published in online and print literary magazines including 'The Write Launch'; 'The Bookends Review'; 'Isele Magazine'; 'Adelaide Literary Magazine'; 'Potato Soup Journal'; 'Vagabond'; 'Literary Yard'; and 'Ariel Chart'.

In November 2021, Rakiya was listed as a finalist in the Eyelands Book Awards 2021 - an international contest for published/unpublished books based in Greece. Rakiya was one of 4 finalists in the unpublished short story collection category.

GenZ is an innovative, traditional, indie publisher that focuses on mentoring authors through each step of the publishing process and beyond: editing, writing sequels, cover design, marketing, PR, and even getting agented for future works.

Related story:

"Rakiya" Shortlisted for International Book Award

Friday, February 10, 2023

Shlomo Artzi in Concert

What a perk when your daughter manages events at Binyanei Hauma, Jerusalem's International Convention Center, and can get you free tickets to a Shlomo Artzi concert!
The first time I saw Shlomo Artzi perform was 50 years ago on that very same stage in Binyanei Hauma. Other performing musicians that night, if I recall correctly, were Ruti Navon and Miri Aloni. I was in high school and a classmate's brother had produced the concert at the huge Jerusalem hall, hoping to make a name for himself in the Israeli music industry.  The night didn't go as he had hoped.

Only some 75 tickets to the concert were sold. I think this was because of the lack of publicity and the fact that another huge event had been staged a few nights before. The small crowd sat in the first few rows of the hall, which can seat 3,000 people. I remember that Shlomo Artzi was unfazed by the low turnout, and he played a very good set.

Over the years, Jodie had I have seen Elton John and Paul Simon perform in that same hall. And we attended an outdoor Shlomo Artzi concert at Sultan's Pool a number of years ago.

The concert last night was fun. He performed many of his greatest hits, connecting them together with short tales of his career. He mentioned performing at Binyanei Hauma as a soldier, but didn't mention the concert I had attended for some reason.

Shlomo Artzi is one of Israel's leading folk rock musicians and composers. He is incredibly talented and the band that accompanied him was incredible. A totally enjoyable concert and it came as a treat from our daughter Merav!

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.