25 Feb 2014

Yael Politis

Comments Off on Yael Politis Book Reviews, News

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 Today I am proud to present a very talented writer with a very interesting background. I read and reviewed several of Yael’s wonderful books and asked her to tell us about herself and her life. I am leading with this today but you can find two of her books reviewed further down on this post.

Toward the end of my freshman year in Ann Arbor my roommate dropped The Michigan Daily on my bed and pointed at an ad. For $400 the Israeli Students Association would arrange your flight to Tel Aviv and place you as a volunteer on a kibbutz for the summer.

“You’re forever talking about Israel,” she said. “Why don’t you go?”

How long had I been thinking and talking about Israel? Since the movie Exodus came out in 1960. Back in those good old days the premier of a movie was a big deal. We used to get all dressed up and go to the United Artists or one of the other fabulously beautiful theaters in downtown Detroit. That time I tried refusing to go – I thought it was another biblical flick with guys in robes and wasn’t in the mood. But my dad made it quite clear that it was a ‘family outing’ and not optional.

When we got home I saw that my mom had the book and sat down to read it cover to cover. About 14 times. Then I went to the library and systematically read every book they had about Israel, including geography and geology. (There’s a lesson here to all parents – watch what you make your kids do.)

Anyway, I went. Back then when an El Al flight landed in Tel Aviv its audio system blared (guess what?) the Theme from Exodus. I felt ridiculous when it brought tears to my eyes and even more so when I got off the plane feeling as if I had come home.

I know the next question. Why? Reincarnation? I have no rational explanation and never spent much time searching for one. The feeling was simply too strong to ignore and I accepted that Israel was where I was meant to be. And the older I get, the more I believe that none of us are as rational as we would like to believe. The important decisions – who we marry, where we live, how we make a living – are all leaps of faith, based on feelings we can’t ignore.

I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, a city flush with Ford taxes that enjoyed exceptionally good schools and city services — and back then was infamous for having the most segregationist mayor in a northern state. One of Mayor Hubbard’s oft-quoted gems: I’m not a racist; I just hate those bastards. When I went back for my 12th high school reunion one of my former classmates asked me a lot about my life in Israel and then “confessed” to being Jewish. While she was growing up in Dearborn her mother had strictly forbidden her to reveal that fact to anyone.

So, yes, it was an eye-opening journey from Dearborn to Tel Aviv.

Since coming to Israel I have had many jobs, lived in a lot of different places (cities, kibbutzim, and moshavim), and been married to and divorced from two husbands. Life was seldom easy, but I have never regretted making my home here.

The place I lived the longest – and where I raised my children – was in the Katif Bloc in the Gaza Strip. It was there I started to write, on an old Smith-Corona typewriter. I knew the tragic story of what had happened decades earlier, on the eve of Israel’s independence, in a similar bloc of settlements – the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem. No one had ever written a fictional account of it, but I felt it was “too big” for me to attempt and turned to other stories.

Then the first intifada broke out and we were – like the settlers of Kfar Etzion – attacked on the roads and under constant threat. (By the way, one day when the riots sounded like they were on the other side of the next sand dune, I picked up a copy of some magazine – Newsweek or Time – and found it open to an interview with Leon Uris. I laughed out loud. This guy wrote a book and here I am on the Gaza Strip and there he is standing next to his swimming pool.)

But I felt relatively safe; the IDF was there. It made me think again about the people who had chosen to live in Kfar Etzion – and hundreds of other settlements like it – when a Jewish state had seemed like a wild dream. How could they have lived like this without the IDF, when they had barely any training and not enough obsolete weapons to go around? And so soon after the Holocaust had made it all too clear that threats of intent to wipe a nation of the face of the earth are not empty? That’s when my first novel, The Lonely Tree, was born. I don’t often agree with its heroine, Tonia Shulman, but I understand her perfectly.

I have always kept a strong connection with my family and in writing the Olivia series am revisiting my roots in Michigan. My ancestors were savers and I finally sifted through the big red box of diaries, letters, deeds, marriage certificates, etc. that for decades had moved with me from apartment to apartment, but was always shoved neglected into some corner.

The next book in the series will take me back to Dearborn and I know I will have a great time writing it.

So that’s my schizophrenic life – from the Midwest to the Middle East and back again.

My review of The Lonely Tree:

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“The Lonely Tree” by Yael Politis tells the story of a Polish girl in Israel but also the story of Israel/ British Palestine before, during and after the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.
Although I have read a few books on the subject I am always amazed at how many subtly different angles and perspectives there are to this dramatic and important moment of human history. 
Apart from the personal tragedies described movingly and with poignant style there are also many important and thought provoking political and humanitarian observations. 
As native German I read with great shame the reminder of Hitler’s book and his announcement of what would become later reality and history. Refugees from all over Europe came together in Israel after WWII only to be surrounded by equally open hostility. One of my favourite scenes in the book is the radio announcements on the vote for the state of Israel. The massacre of Kfar Etzion on May 13, 1948, just before the foundation is even more haunting seen in that context. 
“The Lonely Tree” however does not simplify the issues and controversies but tells with greatly chosen characters the historical events and how they impacted on the people in the novel and in real life. Tonia the protagonist is far from happy in her religious and limiting surroundings and wants out. She is a perfect reminder that the settlement and the compromises were few people’s first choice. I found a lot of interesting thoughts in this novel while falling heavily for the characters. 
For me this book is one of the reading highlights of the year, a powerful story that stayed with me long after I finished reading.

Yael’s Website: http://yaelpolitis.wordpress.com/

 Yael Politis on Amazon: http://bookShow.me/B002BOA5NU

Olivia Mourning on Amazon: http://bookShow.me/B00H0GYRT2

The Lonely Tree on Amazon: http://bookShow.me/B00D1CU62Q

Yael on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4034866.Yael_Politis

“Olivia, Mourning” by Yael Politis is a remarkably well researched piece of historical fiction that takes us into minute details of life in 1841.  18997323
Whether it is the prize of items, details of farm life, clothing or machinery, laws and attitudes, the writing has an outstandingly authentic feel to it and the setting is easy to imagine rather vividly thanks to the detailed and amazing descriptions.
Olivia is a great character to follow, her resolve, her point of view and her hopes inspired me and made me care for her progress. Not letting herself become a victim she is scheming and plotting her escape from the unpleasant circumstances at home and succeeds.
Her new life is hard but again she perseveres with the help of her black ‘friend’ Mourning.
Politis did a great job at portraying the issues of slavery and women’s right with the well emphasized personal touch. The central personal story between Olivia and Mourning is also well done and realistic and the ending left me with curiosity for book 2.
An impressive novel

 

 

 

written by
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany in 1970 as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
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