2: Speech excerpt, Ayelet Tsabari’s Nili Adler Memorial Lecture, “Language, Longing, and Belonging,” 2017.
In this speech, Ayelet Tsabari discusses some of the themes of her work and what it’s like to write in her second language. This excerpt focuses on her personal background as an Israeli writer of Yemeni descent and the way that her background was underrepresented among the writers she read as a child, as well as in history classes and public life. She references a character from one of her stories, a young Israeli boy, Uri, of Iraqi descent, who hopes to be a writer one day but has no role models until he encounters the work of the Iraqi Hebrew poet Ronny Someck. Mizrahi people have always been underrepresented among Israeli poets and writers, as they have been in other areas of Israeli politics, art, and culture. The marginalization of Mizrahi culture in Israel is one of the central themes in “Say It Again,” as well as in the rest of Tsabari’s collection, The Best Place on Earth.
Suggested Activities: Ask students to think of examples from their own lives when they identified with a fictional character or historical figure. What made them feel connected to that character? Did that character or figure share their own cultural heritage or not? Did they ever feel that they were not being represented in the popular culture they were reading, watching, or listening to? How did they respond to that lack of identification?
Source: “Language, Longing, and Belonging: An Evening with Israeli Author Ayelet Tsabari,” YouTube, May 15, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpMKSGnol3U.