Image cred­it: Deb­bi Cooper

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.