The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

Yael, Avishag, and Lea grow up together in a tiny, dusty Israeli village, attending a high school made up of caravan classrooms, passing notes to each other to alleviate the universal boredom of teenage life. When they are conscripted into the army, their lives change in unpredictable ways, influencing the women they become and the friendship that they struggle to sustain. Yael trains marksmen and flirts with boys. Avishag stands guard, watching refugees throw themselves at barbed-wire fences. Lea, posted at a checkpoint, imagines the stories behind the familiar faces that pass by her day after day. They gossip about boys and whisper of an ever more violent world just beyond view. They drill, constantly, for a moment that may never come. They live inside that single, intense second just before danger erupts.

In a relentlessly energetic voice marked by caustic humor and fierce intelligence, Shani Boianjiu creates a heightened reality that recalls our most celebrated chroniclers of war and the military, while capturing that unique time in a young woman's life when a single moment can change everything.
 

Read our Twitter discussion with the author (@ShaniBoianjiu) from November 20th, below. Make sure to follow the Jewish Book Council ( @jewishbook) and Jewcy (@jewcymag) and search #JLit to follow next month's conversation.

JewishBook: Welcome, everyone, to Twitter Book Club, cosponsored by @JewcyMag! Today our featured author is @ShaniBoianjiu, joining us from Israel #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu First of all, how are you? Where are you living? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook @jewcymag Hello all....ready for questions....#JLit

erikadreifus: @ShaniBoianjiu I've been following your tweets. Is your grandma OK in Rishon Letzion? #JLit

JewishBook: For those of you not clued in earlier, we're discussing@ShaniBoianjiu's breakout novel, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook I am well. I live in the upper galil, which is strangely the safest area of Israel right now. #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu Glad to hear you're okay. First Q: Did you write this book while you were in the army? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @erikadreifus She is fine, but her whole apartment shook when the missiles hit a couple of hours ago, bc it hit 2 houses next door#JLit

AdamTeeter: .@ShaniBoianjiu as someone who served in the IDF what do you think of the social media campaign they have been running? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook No. I wrote stories while I was in the army, but strangely almost non of them made it into the book. I wrote it 3 years later.

jewcymag: .@ShaniBoianjiu reminded of the characters in your book as we hear the news from Israel—are you in touch with any young soldiers? #JLit

NaomiFirestone: .@ShaniBoianjiu Also, did you have a vision for each section of the novel at the beginning or did it evolve as it progressed? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @AdamTeeter I find it odd. It is also clear the person writing the twits is not a native Israeli. I am not sure what the point is. #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu Who is the audience you had in mind for TPoFANA? Americans, Israelis, young, old, soldiers, civilians...? #JLit

erikadreifus: @ShaniBoianjiu There have been so many reviews/articles about yr book. Not to mention, say, feedback on the NYer excerpt. I wonder #JLit (1/3)

NaomiFirestone: @ShaniBoianjiu Did you end up ever publishing the stories that you wrote while in the army? If so, where can we find them? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @jewcymag my sister is still a soldier. I'm in touch with her & her friends. And I'd say half of my friends are doing reserve . #JLit

AdamTeeter: @ShaniBoianjiu agreed #jlit

ersatzidentity: @ShaniBoianjiu what does the woman who threw herself upon the barbed wire represent to you? #JLit

erikadreifus: Which comments/critiques may have seemed to grasp your intent w/the book and/or otherwise made sense to you, and then, #JLit 2/3

ShaniBoianjiu: @NaomiFirestone It was very much a slow progress. I had no idea what I was writing or that it was even a book until I wrote it. #JLit

erikadreifus: @ShaniBoianjiu which ones seemed totally off-base/misunderstood the book? #JLit 3/3

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook I never thought the book would be published- I had no audience in mind. I wrote what I wanted,#JLit 

ShaniBoianjiu @JewishBook & 4 my friends who were my 1st readers. #JLit

stuffism: .@ShaniBoianjiu You get referred to a lot as a breakout 'young writer'—do you think that distracts from your work or is it part of it? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @NaomiFirestone No, I never published them. I made them into a book and shared it with some friends and a high school teacher only.#JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu If you had to describe what your book is about in, say, a tweet, what would you say? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @NaomiFirestone (they are very crazy)#JLit

NaomiFirestone: @ShaniBoianjiu Ok, now I'm extra curious :) #JLit

tabletmag: Author @ShaniBoianjiu is chatting now with @jewcymag and@JewishBook under the hashtag #JLit.

ShaniBoianjiu: @ersatzidentity She represnts to me a type of suffering that exists in the world and that is beyond my understanding. #JLit

erikadreifus: @jewishbook Oh, such a question! Glad you didn't ask *me* that one. ;-) #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @ersatzidentity I was careful to only 'almost' write in her voice (she is in a way Avishag's imagination) bc she is beyond my reach#JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu Isn't it tough to write about something beyond your understanding? How does that play out in the writing process? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @erikadreifus I am not going to name them, but there have been alot, even they very positive ones. #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu Have Israeli women who served in the #IDFsent you their stories after reading the book? #JLit

erikadreifus: @jewishbook @ShaniBoianjiu I think that's part of the writer's job. Certainly one of the most exciting, if challenging, parts of it. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @erikadreifus Basically any review that only engages with anything in the book as a mirror to the conflict I see as off #JLit 

jewcymag: .@ShaniBoianjiu How did it feel to be compared to Lena Dunham in @tnr? (http://t.co/Ujl8kndG) Are you 'a voice of a generation?’ #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @stuffism I am not sure. I do not feel that young...I am 25...and 28 year old writers are not seen as young...#JLit 

erikadreifus: @shaniboianjiu And I can see why. Thank you for answering.#JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu Do you write in Hebrew? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @stuffism It was my goal to give a voice to an age group that I belong to (inside and outside of Israel) that I do not see in lit #JLit

NaomiFirestone: @ShaniBoianjiu What has been the response from your peers? #JLit 

MichelleHaimoff: @ShaniBoianjiu WIll the book feel different to you when it is translated into Hebrew? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook how little identity an 18 yr old girl has when she joins the adult world, and how important that identity then becomes. #JLit

erikadreifus: @ShaniBoianjiu Could you recommend some other Israeli writers whose work is just now becoming available in English? #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu Did you start out with that synopsis, or is that what you came up with looking back on it as a whole? #JLit 

JewishBook: @MichelleHaimoff @ShaniBoianjiu Also, are you the one doing the translation? #JLit

erikadreifus: @michellehaimoff Good question! #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook Some writers think it is fair game and that this is their goal. When it comes to suffering I try to ...

ersatzidentity: @ShaniBoianjiu do women ever avoid the conscription with yeshiva? #jlit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook only write about what I understand and if I have to write abt what I don't, do it through the lens of what I do. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook No. I think that's because the book is not out in Hebrew yet, and very few people here read it. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @jewcymag I loved 'girls' for being funny, and for giving a stage for a language and a way of being that has yet to be seen but...#JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu So when will it be out? Who's translating? Will you read the translation? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @jewcymag I don't think there is ANY connection aside from the fact we are both young and writing abt young ppl in our countries. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @jewcymag @tnr I am NOT the voice of my generation. My book is weird, and mine, and does not represnt anyone. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook I do. Usually when I write in Hebrew the plot is better, but the language less careful. Sometimes I write and translate #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu Right. There's been talk abt Girls skewing twds privileged young women; hard to see yr novel fitting in that paradigm #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @NaomiFirestone None of them have read the book. They all think it is strange they were articles about me in Haaretz and yediot. #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu on "Writing in a Foreign Language" for the Visiting Scribe http://t.co/3WIV8wIK #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @MichelleHaimoff Yes. I am involved in the process. Alot will be lost in some will be gained. I secretly hope no1 I know reads it #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu Was the very fraught sexual tension in the #IDF something you witnessed and experienced? #JLit

MichelleHaimoff: @ShaniBoianjiu I can totally understand that. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @erikadreifus Sarah Shilo. I hope Shifra Kornfeld's debut gets translated- it is great. Always Eli Amir. The rest you all know of! #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu So what are you experiencing right now in Israel? What are you seeing and hearing? #JLit 

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook I don't work with synopsis, not for chapters and not for the whole thing. I write what is urgent for me at the moment. #JLit

erikadreifus: @shaniboianjiu New names (for me, at least)! Much appreciated. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook @MichelleHaimoff I am doing it in collaboration with someone else, because it got too personal...#JLit

erikadreifus: @ShaniBoianjiu & @JewishBook Must get back to work now. Will check for final comments/tweets later. Thank you for this chat, & shalom. #JLit

MichelleHaimoff: @ShaniBoianjiu Are you hopeful for peace or does the cycle of conflict feel perpetual? #JLit

NaomiFirestone: .@ShaniBoianjiu What are you working on now? Another novel based in #Israel? Something else? #JLit

jewcymag: .@ShaniBoianjiu we think your 'it's 9 o'clock somewhere' tweet was great (http://t.co/lX6j2xKv). what are people around you saying? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook It was odd seeing my book compared to such privliege--not to say there is no value in art about that!#JLit

NaomiFirestone: @ShaniBoianjiu Do you have any predictions as to what the #Israeli reaction will be to your novel when it is translated? #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook It is different for different people and units. I don't think it is a big issue for most. #JLit

JewishBook: .@ShaniBoianjiu How do you think the culture of the #IDF affects the war - the current one or the one(s) you write about in the book?#JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook ppl are being drafted..people are worried about the missiles...I don't think most ppl my age think anything will change #JLit

stuffism: .@ShaniBoianjiu Is it strange to have a book that's SO much about Israel widely read here (in U.S.) and not yet over there? #JLit

JewishBook: Get your last questions for @ShaniBoianjiu in now, folks! Twitter Book Club time is almost up. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @MichelleHaimoff I am not at all hopeful for peace and the cycle feels perpetual. +They just postponed the ceasefire on my TV. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @NaomiFirestone I am working on a novel based mostly in Israel. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @jewcymag People I think don't really care---I don't think anyone I knows believes this ceasefire will last for long...#JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @NaomiFirestone I am sure some people will hate it for political reasons alone (on both sides) #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @NaomiFirestone And that some people will resent me writing in English and so called 'representing them' ...which I am not. #JLit

MichelleHaimoff: @ShaniBoianjiu I see the humanity in your writing as a form of protest against the perpetual cycle. #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook I think the fact that soldiers are everyone's children makes us worry for the soldiers much more than they elsewhere #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @stuffism Yes! but I like not being known where I live! #JLit

JewishBook: With that, Twitter Book Club w/ @ShaniBoianjiu is officially over. Thank you SO much, Shani! Please stay safe - we are thinking of you #JLit

ShaniBoianjiu: @MichelleHaimoff Thank you---but again, I don't think all the humanity in the world can solve this conflict. It is beyond that. #JLit

jewcymag: .@ShaniBoianjiu thanks so much for chatting! very interesting cc @jewishbook #weretheladies #JLit 

JewishBook: Of course, feel free to keep the #JLit conversations going. And thanks to @jewcymag, our fearless cosponsor!

ShaniBoianjiu: @JewishBook Thank you so much for having me and for all the questions from everyone:) #JLit

MichelleHaimoff: @ShaniBoianjiu Fair enough, but don't underestimate the power of an honest voice. It can have a ripple effect... #JLit 

JewishBook: Tweeps! Before you run away from today's Twitter Book Club, our next is Dec. 12@1:30pm w/ @jamiattenberg on her novel, The Middlesteins #JLit 

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