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The Art of Leaving

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An unforgettable memoir about a young woman who tries to outrun loss, but eventually finds a way home. Ayelet Tsabari was 21 years old the first time she left Tel Aviv with no plans to return. Restless after two turbulent mandatory years in the Israel Defense Forces, Tsabari longed to get away. It was not the never-ending conflict that drove her, but the grief that had shak An unforgettable memoir about a young woman who tries to outrun loss, but eventually finds a way home. Ayelet Tsabari was 21 years old the first time she left Tel Aviv with no plans to return. Restless after two turbulent mandatory years in the Israel Defense Forces, Tsabari longed to get away. It was not the never-ending conflict that drove her, but the grief that had shaken the foundations of her home. The loss of Tsabari’s beloved father in years past had left her alienated and exiled within her own large Yemeni family and at odds with her Mizrahi identity. By leaving, she would be free to reinvent herself and to rewrite her own story. For nearly a decade, Tsabari travelled, through India, Europe, the US and Canada, as though her life might go stagnant without perpetual motion. She moved fast and often because—as in the Intifada—it was safer to keep going than to stand still. Soon the act of leaving—jobs, friends and relationships—came to feel most like home. But a series of dramatic events forced Tsabari to examine her choices and her feelings of longing and displacement. By periodically returning to Israel, Tsabari began to examine her Jewish-Yemeni background and the Mizrahi identity she had once rejected, as well as unearthing a family history that had been untold for years. What she found resonated deeply with her own immigrant experience and struggles with new motherhood. Beautifully written, frank and poignant, The Art of Leaving is a courageous coming-of-age story that reflects on identity and belonging and that explores themes of family and home—both inherited and chosen.


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An unforgettable memoir about a young woman who tries to outrun loss, but eventually finds a way home. Ayelet Tsabari was 21 years old the first time she left Tel Aviv with no plans to return. Restless after two turbulent mandatory years in the Israel Defense Forces, Tsabari longed to get away. It was not the never-ending conflict that drove her, but the grief that had shak An unforgettable memoir about a young woman who tries to outrun loss, but eventually finds a way home. Ayelet Tsabari was 21 years old the first time she left Tel Aviv with no plans to return. Restless after two turbulent mandatory years in the Israel Defense Forces, Tsabari longed to get away. It was not the never-ending conflict that drove her, but the grief that had shaken the foundations of her home. The loss of Tsabari’s beloved father in years past had left her alienated and exiled within her own large Yemeni family and at odds with her Mizrahi identity. By leaving, she would be free to reinvent herself and to rewrite her own story. For nearly a decade, Tsabari travelled, through India, Europe, the US and Canada, as though her life might go stagnant without perpetual motion. She moved fast and often because—as in the Intifada—it was safer to keep going than to stand still. Soon the act of leaving—jobs, friends and relationships—came to feel most like home. But a series of dramatic events forced Tsabari to examine her choices and her feelings of longing and displacement. By periodically returning to Israel, Tsabari began to examine her Jewish-Yemeni background and the Mizrahi identity she had once rejected, as well as unearthing a family history that had been untold for years. What she found resonated deeply with her own immigrant experience and struggles with new motherhood. Beautifully written, frank and poignant, The Art of Leaving is a courageous coming-of-age story that reflects on identity and belonging and that explores themes of family and home—both inherited and chosen.

30 review for The Art of Leaving

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I fell head over heals the first time I read “The Best Place on Earth”, by Ayelet Tsabari. The collection of short stories each stands alone - but the themes blend together — life in Israel, ( society, culture, night life, customs, the military, the threat of living with violence, identity, relationships between lovers, family, and friends), Israelis who migrated to Canada, with a focus on Mizrahi and Yemeni Jews. Each story so personal - the characters come alive. The stories are really captiva I fell head over heals the first time I read “The Best Place on Earth”, by Ayelet Tsabari. The collection of short stories each stands alone - but the themes blend together — life in Israel, ( society, culture, night life, customs, the military, the threat of living with violence, identity, relationships between lovers, family, and friends), Israelis who migrated to Canada, with a focus on Mizrahi and Yemeni Jews. Each story so personal - the characters come alive. The stories are really captivating- personal - relatable - and totally enjoyable. Many months later, our local book club loved these stories, too. “The Art of Leaving”, - essays - is Ayelet’s memoir. Her essays blend together in the same way her short stories did in “The Best Place on Earth”. Themes center around growing up: childhood. adolescence, and young adult. Her book is divided into three sections: HOME, LEAVING, & RETURN. Within these sections - are individual stories representing stages & ages of Ayelet’s life. This was ‘tons’ more enjoyable than I was expecting. I saw this book on Netgalley - early- but didn’t jump to read it. Many thanks to Esil ( her review is wonderful), for being my ‘jump-to-it ‘ inspiration. I had justified my ‘waiting’.....( maybe our Jewish book club will read it later?/! Point is I had forgotten how incredibly personal - raw - touching - and sparklingly enjoyable it is to read Ayelet’s prose. Moving - funny at times - soulful - tender - unique personal colorful stories. I related - closely with Ayelet. Ayelet lost her father to death at age 10. I was 4 when my dad died. But those questions that remained with Ayelet her entire life growing up without a father - are the same questions - I’ve lived with too. Ayelet’s father died during the night when she was sleeping - (same for me). I related to this except .....(she wrote words that fit exactly what I went through, too) “I will sleep an entire night ignorant of that loss, and the next morning, I will wake up still knowing, un-orphaned ( and for the first few weeks after his death, every morning will begin with the same blissful amnesia before I am hijacked by remembering”). After the horrible news ..... Ayelet says: “That moment, crystallized in my memory through the fog of grief, will be the fork in the road where my future splits in two: what could have happened had he lived and what happened because he didn’t. And as they grow up, I will try to live as wildly and loudly as I can to outdo the enormity of this moment, to diminish it”. WOW! Thank you Ayelet Tsabari!!! Ayelet’s personal journey continued to sneak up on me and by the time I got to the end -( she lives her life with gusto), I was wishing to know her more.....as in hang out! I’ll never hesitate again about reading Ayelet’s books. This woman can write!!! Thank you Random House, Netgalley, and Ayelet Tsabari P.S. I share the say May 24th birthday with Ayelet 🎂

  2. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    3.8 stars for the land of cool metaphors This memoir is by an Israeli who lived in several countries and tells of her emotional journal. The book is very smart. It didn’t knock my socks off, like the author’s collection of short stories, The Best Place on Earth, did. Ah, but never mind-- there’s a full Joy Jar, lots of shout-outs. Yes, of course there are some complaints, but the joys outnumbered them. Joy Jar -Metaphors galore. And I mean good ones. The author gets an A-plus in this department—ju 3.8 stars for the land of cool metaphors This memoir is by an Israeli who lived in several countries and tells of her emotional journal. The book is very smart. It didn’t knock my socks off, like the author’s collection of short stories, The Best Place on Earth, did. Ah, but never mind-- there’s a full Joy Jar, lots of shout-outs. Yes, of course there are some complaints, but the joys outnumbered them. Joy Jar -Metaphors galore. And I mean good ones. The author gets an A-plus in this department—just wow. She seems to do it with an economy of words, no fluff, and the images form instantly, sharp in your mind. There’s atmosphere out the ying-yang. Get a load of these sentences: “It’s April and cool for the season, the breeze a thin, silky scarf. The sky is the color of white linen that was accidentally laundered with a blue sock.” “The sky is mucky and grey, an ashtray left on a rainy porch.” “Lights burn yellow holes in the dark buildings.” -She’s a total bad ass. I don’t know why, but when a person come across as a very serious writer, you aren’t expecting a wild child who smokes cigarettes and has carried an Uzi (she did mandatory military service). You just don’t. There are many wild stories, but no need for me to ruin the surprise. I just loved the bad-ass parts, and they reminded me of her fantastic short story collection. -Loved the introspection. There is a lot of interior emotions and self-examination, which I adore. I liked her struggle to become a writer. The drive to write was always a part of her, sometimes buried deep, and getting there took a while. -Loved her adventures and chronicle of her relationships. She makes everything juicy but in a quiet way. She had one traumatic thing happen to her, which was harrowing. -Loved to visit different continents. The author went back and forth between Israel and Canada many times, trying to find home. She also did a long stint in India. Her life in the different countries was fascinating. A great sentence about how you feel on landing in a foreign country: “Everything was coated with the surreal haze that followed extended air travel, tinged with strangeness and fatigue, the inconceivability of being here, now.” -A woman in search of a home. She was constantly trying to figure out why she liked to leave instead of stay, and she had interesting ideas about the concept of home. “As a roving twenty-something, I enjoyed toying with the idea of home as if it was a fluid negotiable term, a mental RV, a headspace.” -I’m a complete wuss; please don’t sting me! I’m not going to lie--I was unchy and afraid when I saw there was an entire chapter about hornets. Can I help it that I have a bee phobia? I blame my mother, who went running around the yard screaming every time she saw one. Anyway, I loved this chapter even though I was biting my nails half the time and looking out furtively for hornets. -Liked learning about Jews from Yemen who live in Israel. Fascinating culture, and the author chronicles it well. Jews from Yemen are treated as inferior by other Jews in Israel, and this prejudice affects her deeply. Complaint Board -How am I supposed to give a hoot? I appreciate (and usually tear up) when I hear tributes for people I’ve known and loved, and famous people I’ve liked. The author spends a lot of time talking about her dad and his greatness. He seriously sounds like a cool man, but her praise goes on and on and is monotonous and meaningless to me since I didn’t know him. Way too much on daddy-poo. Sorry. (I know, I know, I sound callous, but can I help it that I’ve ingested some truth serum?) -Just too much about family traditions and history. I know I said I liked the culture part, but there was too much talk of her heritage and traditions. It became a snooze, especially compared to her relationships and adventures, which showed a brazen, rebellious, and overall wild chick. There were also too many relatives to keep track of. The last chapters were especially heritage-centric. -Give me more adventure. The metaphors were truly great, but they require work. Drama and dialogue are my thing. -Can we stay out of the kitchen? Pretty please… I don’t cook, so describing how the author’s mother makes food doesn’t turn me on. Nor does a wholesome hang-out session in the kitchen. There’s a whole (what felt like a long) chapter on recipes! Many details of ingredients. (And way too much cilantro!) A mom who is Betty Crocker even though she’s an exotic one, bores me to tears and makes me want to go out back and chug some beer—and I don’t even drink beer. I did find myself not totally hating the chapter, only because Tsabari is such a skilled writer she can get away with it—a little. Here’s a great sentence about her cooker mom: “She disappeared into the kitchen, became one with the appliances. Food replaced her words; cooking became her currency.” The author probably could write about a phone book and I’d be happy. Still, I’m in a snit about the whole recipe thing. It was supposed to be very yum yum but instead it was a big ho hum. -Motherhood, oh dear. I wasn’t impressed with her thoughts about motherhood, which has nothing to do with the merit of the book. It’s just that sometimes we like to relate. I’m going to stay mum re mum-land in case you want to read this book. And to sum up… I would have liked the whole book to be just about her adventures, relationships, and self-analysis, which reminded me of her rich short stories. But her language and metaphors are just brilliant, so even the boring parts weren’t bad. I’m in awe that the author can write so beautifully in English, since Hebrew is her native language. (Funny, my last book was set in Israel too—an excellent novel called Holy Lands.) I look forward to Tsabari’s next book of short stories or other fiction. Final word: Not enough people know about this great writer. Check her out! Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    4+ stars I read and really liked Ayelet Tsabari’s book of short stories, The Best Place on Earth. Her memoir, The Art of Leaving, is almost a companion to her book of short stories – she covers many of the same places and I recognize the sensibilities and experiences of her main characters. Although she is only in her 40s, Tsabari has had an interesting life and her writing is expressive and engaging. Tsabari was born in Israel to parents of Yemeni origin. Her father died when she was 10 years ol 4+ stars I read and really liked Ayelet Tsabari’s book of short stories, The Best Place on Earth. Her memoir, The Art of Leaving, is almost a companion to her book of short stories – she covers many of the same places and I recognize the sensibilities and experiences of her main characters. Although she is only in her 40s, Tsabari has had an interesting life and her writing is expressive and engaging. Tsabari was born in Israel to parents of Yemeni origin. Her father died when she was 10 years old. Her grandmother had been abandoned by her own mother when she was 2 years old. Until recently, Tsabari has led an unconventional life, traveling the world, strongly attached to her family and people but often looking to leave and looking to move on. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of her life – her father’s death, her military service, her travels to India, time spent in New York, returning to Israel to learn more about her family, becoming a mother, etc… As she writes, she slowly discovers where she comes from and what motivates her. This is a rich memoir with lots of food for thought. I’m definitely looking forward to her next book. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cindy H.

    Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for gifting me with this remarkable memoir. In exchange for the ARC I offer my unbiased review. Without a doubt I will be purchasing a physical copy of this stunning memoir so I can share it with friends and family. This collection of essays resonated with me on so many personal levels; daughter, mother, expat, Jew. I highlighted so many passages and shed too many tears. Although Ayelet Tsabari and I grew up oceans apart and lived very different Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for gifting me with this remarkable memoir. In exchange for the ARC I offer my unbiased review. Without a doubt I will be purchasing a physical copy of this stunning memoir so I can share it with friends and family. This collection of essays resonated with me on so many personal levels; daughter, mother, expat, Jew. I highlighted so many passages and shed too many tears. Although Ayelet Tsabari and I grew up oceans apart and lived very different lifestyles, I found such a strong familiarity within the pages of her story. Her vivid writing & brilliant sense for sights, sounds, smells, streets and neighborhoods kept me devouring the pages and acknowledging the truth of her experiences. “Home is collecting stories, writing them down, and retelling them.” “I remind myself we get to keep our memories and stories, take them with us wherever we go.” Israel is not some foreign land to me, but a place I consider a second home. And I recognize the scars, thorns and messy implications that carries and I applaud Ayelet Tsabari for presenting her homeland in an honest light. “Our country is haunted by its dead, weighted down by loss and remembrance.” I hope this book will resonate with all readers the way it did for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Holly R W

    "The Art of Leaving" is a book that works on many different levels. It is the author's reflections on her own life, thus far (into her 40's). She writes about growing up in Israel as a Jewish Yemeni. Her life includes having 5 siblings, losing her father at age ten, serving in the Israeli army at 18 and then living several years abroad. The reader comes to know Ayelet as a stubborn, argumentative and independent-minded young woman who has a difficult time with commitment. During her 20's and mid "The Art of Leaving" is a book that works on many different levels. It is the author's reflections on her own life, thus far (into her 40's). She writes about growing up in Israel as a Jewish Yemeni. Her life includes having 5 siblings, losing her father at age ten, serving in the Israeli army at 18 and then living several years abroad. The reader comes to know Ayelet as a stubborn, argumentative and independent-minded young woman who has a difficult time with commitment. During her 20's and mid 30's, questions of self-identity loom large as Ayelet experiments with her sexuality, ethnicity and lifestyle. She is always restless and has perfected "the art of leaving". Unlike many of her friends, she has no interest in establishing a home and roots. Throughout Ayelet's travels and drifting, she always manages to come back to her mother and family in Israel. They may question her choices and not always understand her, but their love for her is a given. As Ayelet gets older, she learns to appreciate her mother more (and fight with her less). Learning to cook her mother's recipes was one of the more delightful chapters for me to read. With time and growing maturity, Ayelet does find stability in her life and is able to settle down. She does this in a way that is genuinely her own. The author writes in English, which is a second language for her. The words and images she uses are beautiful. Her metaphors fit naturally into her writing. They are utterly original and creative. I have featured some quotes from the book at the bottom of my review, so that others can have a taste of her writing. This is a book and author I will not forget. I look forward to future books by her. Additional Note: It's always a pleasure to stumble upon a book that is so beautifully written. This fits the "Beautiful" tag for PBT.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    3.5 rounded up to 4; weak opening, but it gets better, though her non-fiction prose is not as well crafted as her fiction. Recommended to readers who lost a parent at a tender age, current or former vagabonds, and people who became parents for the first time in middle age.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mindy

    There is so much about this book that I like---the stories of her Yemenite Jewish ancestors, her feelings of not belonging, her childhood memories---and then there are the parts which almost made me put down the book in the middle, the obsession with her drugged-up '20's and the need to tell us about every person she ever slept with on her journeys in India, Thailand, etc.; her misbehavior in the Israeli army, the general narcissism of a writer who is always writing about herself. But in some wa There is so much about this book that I like---the stories of her Yemenite Jewish ancestors, her feelings of not belonging, her childhood memories---and then there are the parts which almost made me put down the book in the middle, the obsession with her drugged-up '20's and the need to tell us about every person she ever slept with on her journeys in India, Thailand, etc.; her misbehavior in the Israeli army, the general narcissism of a writer who is always writing about herself. But in some ways she's a fascinating writer, and yet I don't really come to like her (why should she care? I still bought and read the book!). I think her current "partner" (husband) must have asked her not to write too much about him, because she writes in very little detail about him, unlike the oversharing about all her previous boyfriends. There are certain people to whom I'd recommend the book, but not generally. If you want to know about Yemenite Jews in Israel, about a young woman who loses her father at such a young age and never really recovers from that tragic event, a person always "in exile", then read Ayelet Tsabari. In certain ways, the book reminds me of Adichie's AMERICANAH (sp?), which was beloved by so many, but which I found annoying in many ways.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ann-Marie "Cookie M."

    Ayelet Tsabari is an Israeli woman of Yemeni family, whose life was shaped by her ethnicity and by her beloved father's death when she was nine. She became untethered, unmoored, wandering the globe, searching for experiences that would help her define herself. "The Art of Leaving" is the story of that search. It is raw, gutsy and honest. A very worthwhile story of how one woman found her place in the world. I received this book free from Random House and Goodreads in exchange for an honest review Ayelet Tsabari is an Israeli woman of Yemeni family, whose life was shaped by her ethnicity and by her beloved father's death when she was nine. She became untethered, unmoored, wandering the globe, searching for experiences that would help her define herself. "The Art of Leaving" is the story of that search. It is raw, gutsy and honest. A very worthwhile story of how one woman found her place in the world. I received this book free from Random House and Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    OK

    Good memoir-essays, clean and polished prose, clear images. I learned a lot about Jewish-Yemeni & Mizrahi identity and culture, and appreciated learning about Ashkenormativity through Tsabari’s eyes. Her meditations on motherhood were moving, and the memoir ends with a strong sense of resolution. The descriptions of food and place were lovely. I needed more, especially around geopolitical critiques of Israel and Tsabari’s travel to the global south. Questions of land, nation, and exploitation—an Good memoir-essays, clean and polished prose, clear images. I learned a lot about Jewish-Yemeni & Mizrahi identity and culture, and appreciated learning about Ashkenormativity through Tsabari’s eyes. Her meditations on motherhood were moving, and the memoir ends with a strong sense of resolution. The descriptions of food and place were lovely. I needed more, especially around geopolitical critiques of Israel and Tsabari’s travel to the global south. Questions of land, nation, and exploitation—and the ways in which the author is situated in these matrices of power—were glaringly absent. I could sense certain moments of willful circumnavigation around these thorny issues, especially re: Palestine. 3/5 As I grow up, I will try to live as wildly and loudly as I can to outdo the enormity of this moment, to diminish it. - 21 Two and a half years in this body and already her attachment to it is so strong, for fear of losing her self so great. - 286 Perhaps motherhood is a series of small abandonment, in the same way that life is a series of goodbyes. - 310

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Latinovic

    Such a beautiful memoir. I felt a strong connection to the universal themes of belonging and family. I read this to give me inspiration in my own work and it didn’t let me down. The structure of the book was so unique. It read like short essays but they were chapters that connected in terms of theme not story line. It worked perfectly.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I ran a little hot and cold with this memoir. Sometimes I found her annoying and self-serving. She is very open and honest and does change and comes full circle eventually.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Olga Gamer

    I tried, I tried so hard to make it through this memoir. The writing is beautiful but there's no real sense of structure and at a certain point, it felt hard to navigate the lack of cohesiveness. While I really liked the narrator at certain parts, other times I found her aimlessness frustrating and without purpose. I wanted more of an exploration of her grief as it related to her father's death but at the time of her enrollment in the Israeli Defense Forces, her father had been dead for nearly n I tried, I tried so hard to make it through this memoir. The writing is beautiful but there's no real sense of structure and at a certain point, it felt hard to navigate the lack of cohesiveness. While I really liked the narrator at certain parts, other times I found her aimlessness frustrating and without purpose. I wanted more of an exploration of her grief as it related to her father's death but at the time of her enrollment in the Israeli Defense Forces, her father had been dead for nearly nine years. It felt strange to use that as a plot point and then not spend much of the memoir discussing her father.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica - How Jessica Reads

    Full review coming for Shelf Awareness (who sent me the ARC).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Smart, insightful writing. I'd like to read more by this author and about her culture. The chapters are a collection of essays arranged roughly chronologically, their stories are not totally sequential and this threw me at first. I got a little impatient with her perpetually immature/unstable nature—so opposite mine—but it resolves. Ultimately worth the read. Smart, insightful writing. I'd like to read more by this author and about her culture. The chapters are a collection of essays arranged roughly chronologically, their stories are not totally sequential and this threw me at first. I got a little impatient with her perpetually immature/unstable nature—so opposite mine—but it resolves. Ultimately worth the read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aurina

    The book was overall very engaging except towards the end where it felt a bit dragged out. My favourite chapters were about the author’s Yemeni identity, her family’s history and the treatment of Yemenis in Israel. These were beautifully and delicately written. I was less interested in her drug-fuelled travels and romantic fails or even her eventual motherhood, but yes I know it’s a memoir so I don’t entirely begrudge that.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bahar Alipour

    Amazing storytelling, I found a lot of parallels to my own story of life, the search for sense of belonging and the concept of home (except for the wandering and drugs). Powerful story! Although at times, it put me out of my comfort zone but I managed to learn from it

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I enjoyed the beginning and the end. The middle bit of "took a lot of drugs while being a 'carefree' traveller" I've heard 1000 versions of 2000 times. I enjoyed the beginning and the end. The middle bit of "took a lot of drugs while being a 'carefree' traveller" I've heard 1000 versions of 2000 times.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    i don't know how to rate this - i feel like it was a 3/3.5, but i originally put this at a 4. i didn't like the first half very much, and i'm not a huge fan of her writing style. i felt that some of the essays were a little repetitive. as someone who likes a linear storyline, or something that is easy to follow, it was confusing when she kept leaping around to different timelines, reintroducing the same people / time period in slightly different ways, it was sometimes difficult for me to grasp t i don't know how to rate this - i feel like it was a 3/3.5, but i originally put this at a 4. i didn't like the first half very much, and i'm not a huge fan of her writing style. i felt that some of the essays were a little repetitive. as someone who likes a linear storyline, or something that is easy to follow, it was confusing when she kept leaping around to different timelines, reintroducing the same people / time period in slightly different ways, it was sometimes difficult for me to grasp the context of each one. i also don't like redundancy, so it didn't feel like it was a cohesive memoir (vs a collection of essays), but maybe that was the point? to illustrate different pieces of memories and how they are assembled together bit by bit? and some themes just felt like they were hit on over and over again, even though they were different people, it almost all blurred into one (all the different men, etc) and no longer felt new very quickly. but some surprised me, like the one about her assault shocked me. the cultural and historical pieces were interesting and informative, especially as i just went to israel for the first time in january (and have israeli + arab friends) so i understood some (but not all) of this. i think many of the references would have been lost without this experience, which i really only had this year. she seems kind of similar to ariel levy, and the two books were actually a little similar - how they talked about freedom and motherhood at least.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Miles

    Ayelet Tsabari grew up poor and discriminated against in the Sha'ariya neighborhood outside Tel Aviv, with her Temeni (Yemini Jewish) family. She hated the army, and was a miserable soldier. She seems to have spent her twenties and early thirties in a peripatetic flight from every convention and responsibility. Such stories of young Israelis are legendary. If you know Israel you've heard many a tale of Israeli youth stoned in India, living on beaches in Thailand, wandering in South America, all Ayelet Tsabari grew up poor and discriminated against in the Sha'ariya neighborhood outside Tel Aviv, with her Temeni (Yemini Jewish) family. She hated the army, and was a miserable soldier. She seems to have spent her twenties and early thirties in a peripatetic flight from every convention and responsibility. Such stories of young Israelis are legendary. If you know Israel you've heard many a tale of Israeli youth stoned in India, living on beaches in Thailand, wandering in South America, all seeking freedom following army service, all postponing their return to the confines of their anxious little country. She was one of them, and Tsabari renders their voice in expressing hers. This is the story of wandering, lost, rootless youth... and how one of them found her way home to her true self - the writer whom she always wanted to be, but had postponed becoming for so long. The book is readable, engaging and relatable. It gives you a real feel for Israel in the 1980s when she was a child, and then brings it forward to the present. It gives you a feel for one of the mizrahi cultures, and what the world looked like from within that inside/outside position.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nadia L. Hohn

    Oh my gosh. This audiobook was 11.24 hours of intense, beautiful, haunting, personal, and amazing reflection about Ayelet Tsabari’s life as narrated by the author. I attended a workshop given by Ayelet in 2016 (I believe) at the FOLD- festival of literary diversity- in Brampton. The Art of Leaving is the sort of impressive memoir I long to write. Raw, frustrating, loving, and tender, I identify with Tsabari’s drive to tell her story, find her family’s truths, and find herself and meaning. I can Oh my gosh. This audiobook was 11.24 hours of intense, beautiful, haunting, personal, and amazing reflection about Ayelet Tsabari’s life as narrated by the author. I attended a workshop given by Ayelet in 2016 (I believe) at the FOLD- festival of literary diversity- in Brampton. The Art of Leaving is the sort of impressive memoir I long to write. Raw, frustrating, loving, and tender, I identify with Tsabari’s drive to tell her story, find her family’s truths, and find herself and meaning. I can identify with her years of travels although mine only spanned months. I love hearing about how she became a mother and “more domestic”. I loved hearing about how much her writing means to her. I will be on the hunt now for more opportunities to learn from Ayelet. This book has made me want to read more about my own family histories as well. There are so many secrets which are complicated by migration and displacements, as Ayelet has also referred to. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this amazing work.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    This is a really beautiful collection of essays about wandering, being a Yemeni Jew in Israel and abroad, and about growing up as a young woman. Ayelet is a great writer, and I learned a lot from reading this book. As someone who loves to travel and move, I could also relate to her. The details about her childhood in Israel and her years in the Israeli army were also fascinating. I also liked learning about her lifelong desire to become a writer. There was a lot to like about this book. Kudos Ay This is a really beautiful collection of essays about wandering, being a Yemeni Jew in Israel and abroad, and about growing up as a young woman. Ayelet is a great writer, and I learned a lot from reading this book. As someone who loves to travel and move, I could also relate to her. The details about her childhood in Israel and her years in the Israeli army were also fascinating. I also liked learning about her lifelong desire to become a writer. There was a lot to like about this book. Kudos Ayelet!

  22. 4 out of 5

    ✿✿✿May

    Finished listening to the audiobook and I am amazed that the author only started writing in English not too long ago and yet was able to write something so poetic.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisi Tesher

    On the surface, I have so little in common w Ayelet, yet the more I read, the more I felt I had so much in common w her…… It isn’t the BEST book I’ve ever read, but I really enjoyed it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ava Homa

    Craving adventure in the lockdown? Travel the world, fall in & out of love through Tsabari’s beautifully-written memoir; experience joy & awe, feel a fierce woman’s curiosity & courage.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    The Art of Leaving is about the author's wanderings. She drifted from her home in Israel to India, to Canada, and back again. I think she was searching for her own story set in the midst of her family history. She lost her father when was only 9 and sort of drifted for a few years. Eventually she settled into a career of writing, began her own family and then chose to commit her family's history to paper. It was an Interesting memoir, although in some parts my attention did wane. Thanks to NetGa The Art of Leaving is about the author's wanderings. She drifted from her home in Israel to India, to Canada, and back again. I think she was searching for her own story set in the midst of her family history. She lost her father when was only 9 and sort of drifted for a few years. Eventually she settled into a career of writing, began her own family and then chose to commit her family's history to paper. It was an Interesting memoir, although in some parts my attention did wane. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emilia

    What a memoir! Ayelet Tsabari's collection of essays was so artfully weaved together I inhaled it in 24 hours. Her voice is exquisite - she is a truly gifted storyteller. What a memoir! Ayelet Tsabari's collection of essays was so artfully weaved together I inhaled it in 24 hours. Her voice is exquisite - she is a truly gifted storyteller.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Second read for bookclub. This was my review first time I read it. This was slow to get into but in the end I really enjoyed this memoir in essays. Tsabari’s life is vastly different from my own - can’t imagine really enjoying the peripatetic lifestyle on Indian and Thai beaches that T gravitates towards in her 20s. The first essay explores the death of her father which proves to be the single most important life-shaping event - it takes her years to fill the void and stop running and holding bac Second read for bookclub. This was my review first time I read it. This was slow to get into but in the end I really enjoyed this memoir in essays. Tsabari’s life is vastly different from my own - can’t imagine really enjoying the peripatetic lifestyle on Indian and Thai beaches that T gravitates towards in her 20s. The first essay explores the death of her father which proves to be the single most important life-shaping event - it takes her years to fill the void and stop running and holding back from love. Men, drugs, rootlessness, lack of self-esteem, distraction - it all finally resolves for T in her 30’s. Her relationship solidifies, she pursues an understanding with her family (and especially her Mum) and approaches the possibility of motherhood. This is an unconventional memoir to be sure and full of rich details about Israeli life as a secular Jew of Yemeni descent. All of that detail was fascinating. Lots of detail about Mizrahi Jews and the second class position they hold in Israel with Ashkenazi or European Jews holding sway. Interesting that preferred army positions, jobs etc tend to go to the Ashkenazi and that the darker Yemeni Jews experience prejudice because of origin, shadeism, lack of education and so on. Life in Israel for all is one of high anxiety and this is something T paints with great clarity. Her time in the army is a low point in her life - despite the frequent claim that this compulsory experience is a melting pot for young Israelis most Mizrahi are relegated to the worst posts. T’s observations on language and belonging are powerful as she often finds herself trying to articulate complex ideas in a new language - “Communication, one of my strongest suits, had become a handicap.” In a second language she is “not witty or funny or articulate or a writer.” By the time T writes this memoir all signs of struggle in English have disappeared - she has an incredible facility for observation and description. She spends much of her 20’s searching and losing herself - one scene in NYC has a fellow Yemeni identify her on the street and invite her into his shop for coffee - he is an Arab but it doesn’t seem to matter as they are kin in the big city. The search for freedom is ultimately also a bit of a prison for T as she is unable to make lasting relationships and seems to bury her talents and desires under fast highs and interchangeable relationships. It’s her friends who help her to identify that the risks she takes and the inability to ground herself are faults - when she hears it in her 30’s she decides to take a new risk and opens herself to commitment. It’s her ignorance of Yemeni culture that fills her up from interviews with her elderly grandmother, to researching literature, to learning how to cook traditional foods that really nourish her. The essay of Yemeni food is spectacular as mother and daughter learn to see each other. “Kitchens were pockets of solace in every house, a neutral territory, a gastronomic Switzerland.” “I who had lived so much of my life looking elsewhere , was slowly coming to acknowledge that not-belonging, also, can be a kind of belonging” is a quote from Esi Edugyan that marks the third section of the memoir. Having felt an outsider without a father, as a minority in Israel, as an Israeli (a country so fraught with tension and crises of identity),T finds belonging with her partner and with their daughter and their regular trips to Israel to spend time with her family. Finally, in uncovering a manuscript of her father’s poetry from just before his death, T finds some peace A remarkable book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Nelson

    *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.* The Art of Leaving struck me as being a woman version of On the Road, except the Tsabari tells infinitely better stories than Kerouac does, and her story contains a profoundness that I just never found within Kerouac’s work. Tsabari goes in-depth with recounting her life, leaving bare all the struggles and hurts she’s had with her father’s death, the oppression she felt since a small child *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.* The Art of Leaving struck me as being a woman version of On the Road, except the Tsabari tells infinitely better stories than Kerouac does, and her story contains a profoundness that I just never found within Kerouac’s work. Tsabari goes in-depth with recounting her life, leaving bare all the struggles and hurts she’s had with her father’s death, the oppression she felt since a small child living in Israel as a Mizrahi Jewish person, and her endless search for a place where she could stay for longer than a year or two. This book is emotional and is the best type of memoir where you feel as though you’re hanging out with the author, hearing her tell you stories from her life. While some were extremely far from my own field of reference–in which case I enjoyed learning more about how different people live in different places–others were all too relatable and familiar and made me reflect on my own life after reading. One of my favorite moments is when Tsabari is trying to get her grandmother to recount family stories; her grandmother was a fierce, strong woman (much like Tsabari herself). The life stories she shares are gripping, and I am in awe of Tsabari’s whole family for what they’ve gone through and the cheer and contentment they have found for themselves (that includes the author as well)! Aside from the profundity of the stories, the level of humor within the book is what kept me turning those pages. The main difference, really, between Tsabari and Kerouac is that Tsabari is able to take a look at herself and laugh–she doesn’t take herself too seriously, and her recollections about her stubbornness and bold adventures have a hint of laughter to them, which I absolutely loved. This created a nice balance within the narrative itself; a lot of the stories are serious and heartbreaking, but they’re sprinkled in with some fun stories or fun moments, and this creates a wholly realized reflection on life that is so satisfying and readable. This book is everything; it contains complex explorations and thoughts about growing up, becoming an adult, and finding yourself; experiences that anyone can relate to. And it is BEAUTIFULLY written. Tsabari is a rockstar writer, truly. The way she crafts sentences is beyond compare, and there were quite a few times when I just had to pause reading this to soak in the way she conveyed an image or a thought. If you’re at all a fan of memoir, I highly recommend this to you. It’s a wonderful read. Also posted on Purple People Readers.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Caren

    "Losing [my father] was the end and the beginning of everything, the cosmic explosion of my little universe. It was the reason I left my home, my family, and my language, and ran away from anything that threatened to tether me down, anything that could break me if it suddenly vanished..." With characteristic honesty, vulnerable Tsabari explores her journey to self-awareness. Her father's death, when she was nine years old, tore apart her budding identity, her connection to her family and its Yem "Losing [my father] was the end and the beginning of everything, the cosmic explosion of my little universe. It was the reason I left my home, my family, and my language, and ran away from anything that threatened to tether me down, anything that could break me if it suddenly vanished..." With characteristic honesty, vulnerable Tsabari explores her journey to self-awareness. Her father's death, when she was nine years old, tore apart her budding identity, her connection to her family and its Yemini culture, and left her struggling through her young adulthood to find where she belonged. This engaging memoir takes readers to the countries she escapes to, through her drug-taking years of trying to numb her sense of loss, and to the relationships she abandons before she herself is abandoned. And, through all her memories, the reader sees through her anger and masks to the sadness that is at her core. Tsabari's insights are meticulously drawn; the reader comes to care about her and about her Yemeni family and its traditions, its history, and the culture that ultimately anchors her to it. These observations were, for me, the most poignant. What emerges from her memoir is the deep pride and respect she rekindles as a Yemeni-Israeli author, wherever she lives (in America, in Canada), especially her commitment to creating space for that distinct voice among a largely Ashkenazi literary tradition.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The entire time I was reading this memoir I could not stop thinking, “Wow!” Wow because Ayelet Tsabari has succeeded in capturing so many sights and smells that are familiar to me but also many experiences that are completely foreign. These beautifully-crafted essays take us on a journey that begins when she is nine, grief-stricken over her father’s death, through her youth in Israel and post-army travels to the United States, Canada, India, and Thailand, and finally back to Israel. The trauma o The entire time I was reading this memoir I could not stop thinking, “Wow!” Wow because Ayelet Tsabari has succeeded in capturing so many sights and smells that are familiar to me but also many experiences that are completely foreign. These beautifully-crafted essays take us on a journey that begins when she is nine, grief-stricken over her father’s death, through her youth in Israel and post-army travels to the United States, Canada, India, and Thailand, and finally back to Israel. The trauma of her father’s death seems to follow her to all these places and while she remains close with her family much of her 20s and 30s are spent apart from them, on opposite sides of the ocean. She toys with the traditional notion of “home” – “Home was transient, constantly shifting. Home, essentially, was the act of leaving –not a physical place, but the pattern of walking away from it,” she writes in the essay “If I Forget You.” Ultimately, she concludes that home is both where her family is, but also collecting stories. “Home is the page. The one place I always, always come back to.” As a reader, I’m so glad she does always come back to the page. Each essay is exquisite, and it’s a tribute to Tsabari’s talent that English is not her first language. I finished this volume very quickly, hungry for more of Tsabari’s words and wisdom.

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