From Nov ’05 Spotlight: Chicago Nextbook kicks off its new “History, Culture and Ideas” series on Monday, Nov. 14, with a visit from three Israeli women writers: Maya Arad, Alona Kimhi, and Nava Semel. Kimhi and Semel both have novels which are already available in English. Arad, who is best-known in America for her work as a linguist, has published a novel in Hebrew verse that has yet to be translated.
Nava Semel’s two novels, Becoming Gershona and Flying Lessons, are poetic little books written for young adult readers. Both are set in the 1950s, when the State of Israel was just taking shape. Her teenage heroines, Gershona and Hadara, come of age in a world in which Holocaust survivors, haunted by their memories, struggle to adapt to a new and strange land, while their children tiptoe around sorrows too huge for words. The writing is lyrical with evocative descriptions of landscape, trees and flowers.
Weeping Susannah, by contrast, is the psychological dissection of a woman living so symbiotically with her mother that she is unable to create her own identity. Susannah’s mother, Ada, is also a Holocaust survivor, and when her father dies, Susannah becomes the total focus of Ada’s life. The constant attention stunts her growth; frightened of everything, Susannah withdraws from the world and refuses to blossom into womanhood. But she’s surprisingly clear-eyed about her situation. She tells her story without an ounce of self-pity, making it easy to become invested in Susannah’s eventual escape from her mother’s apartment.
Meet Arad, Kimhi, and Semel on Monday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Alliance Française de Chicago, 54 W. Chicago Ave. (corner of Chicago Avenue and Dearborn Street). For reservations, consult the Nextbook website: www.nextbook.org/localprograms/chicago_history.html