Friday, September 30, 2011

Daughters of Iraq - Revital Shiri-Horowitz

Life, Death, Love, Loss, Growth. In Daughters of Iraq, author Revital Shiri-Horowitz tackles these issues and does it with astonishing grace and skill. Told in the alternating narratives of three different women from the same family, Shiri-Horowitz takes us from Iraq to Israel, from Loss to Living and from merely coping to truly existing.

Noa Rosen has lost her mother and is still reeling from that loss. A twenty-something student in Israel, she is seeking meaning and understanding. When she is given the diary that her mother kept during her illness she discovers that there was much about her mother that she never knew.

Violet Rosen has come to the end of her life. As she struggles with leaving her beloved husband and children behind, she finds a way to share her story with them after she’s gone. Through the pages of her diary we learn of her immigration from Iraq to Israel. The diary is a Godsend for her daughter, Noa, after her loss, but it is also healing to Violet.

Farida Sasson is also dealing with loss. She is a widow and is having a hard time coping with an emptiness that has enveloped her since her children have left home and her husband has passed away. She finds strength in her family and in food and she loves to indulge in both. When she sees her niece struggling to cope with life after her sister’s death, she decides she is ready to give her the diary. Through the pages of this diary she hopes that Noa will also learn the importance of family.

I greatly enjoyed Daughters of Iraq. I was very impressed with the author’s ability to alternate voice and completely jump around between time periods and locations with ease. The pace of the book was wonderful and I found it hard to put down. I found the story to be very touching. The pages of Violet’s diary were especially memorable to me. I found myself turning pages faster and faster during her stories of a privileged existence in Iraq to a much more challenging life in Israel. I was deeply moved by the descriptions of her withering body and her coming to terms with it. I also found this book to be educational. While it is a novel, it is based in historical fact and much of this history I never gave much consideration to. I would strongly recommend this book and I’m very glad that I read it.

Q&A with Revital Shiri-Horowitz 

Pages of Gold: I'm very interested in how you came up with the plot for this story.   Is it any reflection on your personal story or the story or someone you know?
Revital: Thanks for asking that question, Heidi! The reason I started writing this book was out of anger. I was a student at the time at Tel-Aviv University, studying for my Masters degree in Hebrew Literature. As the daughter of Iraqi-Jewish immigrants to Israel, I was so tired of hearing about Jewish women from Arab countries who were and still are being placed on a lower rung of the ladder in Israeli society. At that time I thought that the story of these Iraqi-Jewish women immigrants went unspoken. The women in my family have the right to be heard. The women in my family were strong and powerful. They saved their children’s' lives once or twice. They weren't afraid of what people would have thought about them and just did the right thing to survive. I thought that someone should tell their story. Since I had no one in mind that was able to do so, I wrote their story myself... 
My novel, Daughters of Iraq, is based on my family's story. Everything that had to do with Iraq is true. So are all the traditions and holiday celebrations and recipes I share in the book. I did have to build a story that would be attractive, human and touching, so I used fictional characters and built them around the facts on my family's emigration story from Iraq to Israel in the 1950s, and also on my life as a university student. 

Pages of Gold: What are your thoughts on the book being published in both Hebrew and English?  
Revital: Daughters of Iraq was written in Hebrew and published in Israel in 2007. I managed to find a wonderful translator named Shira Atik, and then I gave the book to an editor, who did a fantastic job. The book was self-published in English in the beginning of April 2011.  

Pages of Gold: Where can we learn more about you? 
Revital: What would you like to know? I was born and raised in Israel. As a kid, I wrote poetry and short stories, and wrote in my journal up until I met my husband. I never imagined that one day I’d be a published author in multiple languages, and in so many countries, and even continents. Wow! 
I earned a BA in Hebrew Literature and Geography from Tel Aviv University, an MA in Geography from Haifa University and an MA in Hebrew Literature from Tel Aviv University. 
I was an assistant professor of Geography in Haifa and Tel Aviv Universities, and have been an editor for Hebrew-language books.  
Currently based in Seattle, Washington, and in Israel, I'm the mother of four boys, married to Amnon for twenty years, write poetry, keep a blog in “Haaretz,” an Israeli newspaper, and run a blog in English at http://revitalsh.wordpress.com/, a site in English and Hebrew at http://www.revital-sh.com/ and am a member of Goodreads.com and SheWrites.com. 
I love hearing from my readers and enjoy giving presentations to readers groups and book clubs and other groups. And yes, I am working on a second novel. 


GIVEAWAY of Daughters of Iraq!

Please comment below on what creative act you took perhaps out of anger or frustration... and enter to win a copy of Daughters of Iraq. 

In one week, Revital will pick one winner of this book!

Available in any ebook format or as a paper copy. Also available in English or in Hebrew. Let us know the format and language when we contact you about winning. We will ship a copy anywhere in the world!

For the Giveaway Grand Prize: Everyone who comments is eligible to win a lovely book by Mama Nazima, Jewish Iraqi Cuisine (http://www.amazon.com/Mama-Nazimas-Jewish-Iraqi-Cuisine/dp/0781811449/). Revital will pick a lucky winner at the end of November 2011. She will ship the book anywhere in the world. Good luck! 


17 comments:

Mamakucingbooks said...

Gosh! I would love to get my hands on this book.

For me its useless shout to vent out my anger or frustration. Inside I kept quiet and write. Write blog posts. Once I have "exploded", I'll feel better.

Trudy Zufelt said...

I started my blog on boys and literacy after my own frustration of trying to get my boys to read.

~Brandy~ said...

I'd just like to say that writing a book to act as a voice for a person or people who are, for one reason or another, unable to do so themselves is admirable and something I hope to do with my future.

For me writing is an outlet for my emotions. I write about my fears, my passions, and the things that anger me to the point of explosion (like mamakudingbooks). Typically, my writing comes in the form of poetry and often times I develop poetry from journal entries or blog posts.

Cheers!

J.P. Hansen said...

This sounds like a fascinating book (and a fascinating writer.) Frustration leading to creativity? How about unemployment pushing me toward becoming a freelance web designer, author, and editor.

Buzz_B said...

This sounds brilliant and definitely something most of my family would read (woo, may be ahead of my mum by buying this before she does!)

My creative outlet was always singing, took lessons at school and everything!

I ahve an award for you on my blog btw: http://beesbuzzgoneawol.blogspot.com/

MaryAnn said...

This sounds like it would be a great read. Wonderful interview. So much power with words.

Renee Pace said...

Thanks so much for the invite. Your book sounds totally inspiring and just the type of book I like to read. Again, thanks for emailing me. Now off to buy your book.

Claire Robyns said...

I always love to see when anger/frustration is channeled into a positive/constructive outlet that could perhaps help bring about change. Fascinating interview, thanks for sharing, and this book sounds great

onechocolatebox said...

Hi Heidi, I just wanted to say thank you so much for welcoming me at Book Blogs. It was very nice of you. Your blog looks fantastic! If you do have the time, I'd love to hear your thoughts on mine (I'm new to book reviewing!). Cheers!

Lisa said...

This is a book I would like to read. Thanks lisapeters at yahoo dot com

Ellis Vidler said...

Your background will certainly add to the attraction of this book. The stories of the three women sound touching and inspiring.

Rachael's Reads said...

Great interview! :) I think the premise of the book is interesting. I love that it is now published in English! Great post :)
http://missourireadings.blogspot.com/

Temperance Black said...

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Elizabeth said...

I read this also...excellent book.

Great interview.

Elizabeth

http://silversolara.blogspot.com

Beth Barany said...

Revital asked me to post this. We're so sorry for the delay... tech issues...

Dear Brandy

Congratulations for being the winner of a free copy of my book "Daughters of Iraq". We will be contacting you with your free copy.

Best, Revital
www.revital-sh.com
revitalsh.wordpress.com

gillyfraser said...

I'm too late to enter the competition - but I'm definitely going to hunt out this book - which sounds well worth reading. Enjoyed the review - and the interview, so thank you for that Heidi!

Beth Barany said...

gilly, Glad you enjoyed the review and thanks for commenting. Revital's book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: http://www.amazon.com/Daughters-Iraq-Revital-Shiri-Horowitz/dp/0615460798/ and http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/daughters-of-iraq-revital-shiri-horowitz/1100445005?ean=9780615460796&itm=1&usri=revital%2bshiri-horowitz