Writers’ Studio grad Ayelet Tsabari wins Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

The Jewish Book Council (USA) has announced Ayelet Tsabari as the 2015 recipient of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature (Fiction) for her short story collection The Best Place on Earth (HarperCollins Canada, 2013).

Ayelet Tsabari, photo by Elsin Davidi
Ayelet Tsabari, photo by Elsin Davidi

Ayelet Tsabari graduated from SFU’s The Writers’ Studio in 2007, where she studied under Wayde Compton and Betsy Warland.

Tsabari is an Israeli of Yemeni decent, grew up outside of Tel Aviv, and moved to Canada in 1998. Her life in Israel is a big inspiration for Tsabari, who says that “writing keeps [Israel] close to my heart.” She had initially resisted the urge to write about Israel, but realized that she needed to write about it. “The subject chose me, I had to let go and let it happen”.

The Best Place On Earth follows Mizrahi characters— Jewish people of Middle Eastern and North African descent who are not considered Arab—with stories of love, loss, and displacement. The collection gathers the sensory elements of her birthplace and examines identities inherent in our cultures, considering how we navigate the crossroads of nationality and religion.

The $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature “recognizes the unique role of contemporary writers in the transmission and examination of the Jewish experience. It is intended to encourage and promote outstanding writing of Jewish interest.” It is awarded annually for fiction and non-fiction in alternating years. Read the announcement on Quill & Quire.