Ask For a Convertible

Dan­it Brown
  • Review
By – March 5, 2012
This series of intri­cate­ly linked short sto­ries speaks to the place of Amer­i­can Jews and Israeli expa­tri­ates in our soci­ety. A young girl moves with her Israeli moth­er and Amer­i­can Jew­ish father from Tel Aviv to Ann Arbor, Michi­gan and strug­gles to fit in while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly remain­ing true to the self she left behind. As she matures, we fol­low her back to Israel and then back again to Michi­gan, a sort of Wan­der­ing Jew with roots in two places but unsure of how root­ed she real­ly is any­where at all. The depth of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish con­nec­tion to Israel is exam­ined. Minor char­ac­ters are treat­ed to full chap­ters of their own, pro­vid­ing us with enrich­ing back-sto­ry and adding tex­ture to the main nar­ra­tive. With the addi­tion of a sim­ple plot line or two, this inter­est­ing sto­ry col­lec­tion could have been devel­oped into a full-length nov­el. It is to be hoped that we will hear more from this promis­ing author who has the poten­tial to bring slight­ly off­beat char­ac­ters to life and who under­stands some­thing about fam­i­ly dynam­ics and (at least one small slice of) the Amer­i­can Jew­ish expe­ri­ence.


by Michal Hoschan­der Malen

MM: One of the major themes of your sto­ry col­lec­tion is Israel. Tell me a bit about your per­son­al rela­tion­ship with Israel. 
DB: My back­ground is pret­ty sim­i­lar to Osnat’s (the main char­ac­ter in the book) in that I was born in Israel and moved here when I was ten. We’ve always had a close con­nec­tion to Israel. I was in school in Israel from first to fourth grades and I was taught that Israel was a place to go back to. I went back as a Return­ing Minor in my 20’s but I was nev­er able to make the adjust­ment.

MM: You have sev­er­al oth­er themes that flow through­out your nar­ra­tive, includ­ing fam­i­ly and a sense of belong­ing. One of the minor yet con­sis­tent themes is that of run­ning. How much of a metaphor is that for any under­ly­ing motifs of run­ning toward some­thing or run­ning away? Or do you just like to run? 
DBI do love to run. I’m not good at it at all. But if it’s func­tion­ing as a metaphor, it’s not some­thing I was actu­al­ly aware of.

MM: We under­stand, of course, that your pro­tag­o­nist, Osnat, is a fic­tion­al char­ac­ter. You’ve already told us she shares much of your back­ground. How much does she reflect your feel­ings?
DBI would have to say that while some bio­graph­i­cal ele­ments are sim­i­lar, I would have to give a typ­i­cal writer’s answer that all of the char­ac­ters reflect my feel­ings in some way through their posi­tions. All the char­ac­ters are caught between con­flict­ing feel­ings or sit­u­a­tions or cul­tures.

MM: Have any of those con­flicts been resolved?
DB: For some of the char­ac­ters, they have. Har­ri­et and Noam have found a way to resolve their con­tra­dic­tions and Osnat is well on her way.

MM: What are you work­ing on now and is there, per­haps, a nov­el in your future?
DBI’m hop­ing there’s a nov­el in my future but it’s still very neb­u­lous. I’m inter­est­ed in the notion of peo­ple dis­ap­pear­ing, some of them because they can’t help it if they have Alzheimer’s or some­thing like that and oth­ers by con­scious­ly choos­ing to dis­ap­pear. I’m intrigued by some of the sto­ries we heard after Sep­tem­ber 11th, although we don’t know if they are true, about peo­ple who upped and left their lives and there was no way of find­ing out what actu­al­ly hap­pened to them.

MM: What books have you read that you feel influ­enced you as a writer? 
DBLor­rie Moore’s col­lec­tion of short sto­ries Birds of Amer­i­ca has had a pro­found influ­ence. She has a won­der­ful sense of humor but, at the same time, there is so much mov­ing human expe­ri­ence in the sto­ries. I hope I can write half as well as she does.

MM: Is there any pos­si­bil­i­ty that Osnat, the char­ac­ter, or Dan­it, the author, might try liv­ing in Israel again? 
DBIt’s hard to imag­ine clos­ing the door on liv­ing in Israel but for me, per­son­al­ly, I’m mar­ried to a man who isn’t Jew­ish so I think doing that has pret­ty much tak­en it off the table. But if I hadn’t mar­ried him, I’d still be strug­gling with the ques­tion. As for Osnat, I hope that this whole notion that home is where the peo­ple you love are, will be enough to allow her to live in the U.S. in the moment instead of always won­der­ing if she should be liv­ing some­where else. 

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions