Expatriate act

Maya Arad breaks ground as an Israeli writer—by living in America.

As a Hebrew writer living outside Israel, novelist Maya Arad is able to maintain a critical perspective on both her native culture and on the United States, where she has lived since 2002. Another Place, a Foreign City, her debut work and the first Hebrew novel written in verse, charts a love affair between a soldier in the Israeli army’s education corps and a Canadian immigrant. The book was a surprise bestseller in 2003, and she followed it up in 2005 with The Righteous Forsaken, a deft verse comedy which satirizes the stock characters of Israeli society, including a self-sacrificing state builder, a young leftist, and a high-tech millionaire.

In 2006, Arad—who teaches at Stanford—made a radical transition in content as well as form. Seven Moral Failings, a prose novel that depicts an academic job search at a prestigious American university, has few Israeli characters and touches only lightly on the themes of Israeli identity which dominate her earlier work. Earlier this year her collection of novellas, Family Pictures, was published in Israel. Set both there and in America, the stories survey the wreckage of a broken family through different lenses: the rivalries between half-siblings, a son’s romance with the daughter of his father’s girlfriend, and a divorced mother’s struggle to provide for her son.

Read the full interview from 2008 in Tablet.