In advance of the 68th Annual National Jewish Book Awards ceremony on March 5th, 2019 (which you can buy tickets for here), Jewish Book Council is sharing short interviews with the winners in each category.
Alice Shalvi’s memoir, Never a Native,is the winner of the 2018 Barbara Dobkin Award for Women’s Studies. In her book, Shalvi recounts the lives of her parents and siblings, her family’s encounters with antisemitism, her Cambridge education, her commitment to Zionism, and her 1949 decision to make aliyah. She also discusses her happy and fruitful marriage and the challenges of balancing an academic career and raising six children. The judges on the Women’s Studies panel say: “Central to this story is Shalvi’s account of her gradual recognition of the endemic sexism in Israeli life and her emergence as an advocate for women’s welfare and for increasing women’s visibility and leadership in every aspect of Israeli society. Shalvi has been recognized and honored for her achievements both in Israel and the United States. Her vibrant memoir will enhance her legacy even as it inspires her readers to emulate her accomplishments.”
Which three Jewish writers, dead or alive, would you most like to have dinner with?
Glückel of Hameln, who, though not strictly an author, nevertheless wrote one of the most fascinating accounts of the life of a female entrepreneur; Emma Lazarus, because I’d like to know what inspired her to write “The New Colossus,” that wonderful embrace of strangers seeking refuge and a new life in an unknown country; and Ada Levenson, who was a witty English socialite and friend of Oscar Wilde and other eccentric authors and artists, and whose novels brilliantly convey the spirit of the fin-de-siècle.
What’s your favorite book that no one else has heard of?
Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis, a collection of witty poems that purport to be the biography of Mehitabel the Cat as written by Archie the Mouse. It is full of brilliant aphorisms, of which my favorite is “Time time said old King Tut / is something I ain’t / got anything but.”
Which Jewish writers working today do you admire most?
Etgar Keret. His work captures the current nature of Israel, but in a light, witty manner.
What are you reading right now?
Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I just received it from a dear friend and I’m curious to know more about this remarkable woman (who could herself admirably fit the role of president).
What are your greatest creative influences (other than books)?
Life, people, music, and nature. the first two lead me to contemplate the workings of the human soul and mind. The last two lead me to meditate on what I have learned. That, in turn, serves as a source of inspiration.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
To never give up on the hope of creating a better world, and to resolve to be actively involved in attempting to bring that world into being.