Should writers in Israel hide?

When I submit my short stories should I hide my Israel location?

This is a real question participants in my classes ask me. Most often these writers use an American address of a relative or the address of a friend overseas in their submissions. They genuinely believe that an address in Israel lowers their chances of acceptance in literary magazines and journals and, as the odds are already so stacked against new writers, they figure: who needs the handicap of an Israel address?

I admit that it never occurred to me to alter my Israeli address in my submissions and I’ve been submitting stories since 2005. Is this naive? I don’t think so.  

If a publication does not want to print my story because I live in Israel, I do not want to be published by that publication. Is that too simple?

So, how have I answered these writers? I tell them the truth. I use my real address. I point out that if they have altered their addresses, they have also altered the locations in their stories—there are many nods when I say this—transplanting events that took place somewhere around Tel Aviv to New York or London or (worse, in my opinion), they write stories that take place in unspecified locations: that city, town, street, river, downtown, main road, it’s endless. Stories without a strong sense of place probably won’t get published anyway.

I get a lot of arguments in my classes about this too. Why? What does it matter where it happened if it is a story about adolescence, Alzheimer’s or adoption? What’s the difference? These are the angry responses I get. A whole essay could answer this question, but in short:

Part of the magic of a story is that it transports you to another place and often another place in time, real or imagined. If you ask ten people about their favorite stories, good chance they will talk about feeling as though they are really in the American South, in Hogwarts School of Magic, in Elizabethan England and so on. If your stories take place in ‘a city’ you have lost so much. Characters are often built on and reflect their locations, their place, so you’ve lost on character building, speech, dialogue, and atmosphere, not to mention the detail that will bring your story to life.

But what if I live in Israel, but write about events that take place overseas: my magical childhood in London, my nightmare wedding in LA or my heartbreak in Toronto? If Israel has nothing to do with the story, why lower my chances of publication by mentioning my real address? Why get tossed out of the slush pile based on an editor’s political views?

Well, writers in Israel, what would you answer? Is this a classic case of Jewish paranoia or just a way to level the playing field? Do you think writers in other countries hide their addresses?


Sari Friedman said...

We're talking about anti-Semitism, here. I agree with Gila: if someone is a racist, I'd rather not publish in their journal. I'd rather not switch to having a non-Jewish name, non-Israeli address, non-Zionist views just to gain acceptance. We're not talking about life and death -- at stake is being published by xyz magazine.

My name is VERY Jewish and I live in a non-Jewish area. I encounter anti-Semitism at least once a week. I hate it, but I will not change myself to be accepted by bigots.

I think there's value to the Jewish and Israeli perspectives, and lots of editors will feel the same way. You may get an advantage re: getting into print. You're living in a dramatic situation, and this leads to your writing dramatic prose. All things considered, I say stay true to yourself.

Holly said...

I don't live in Israel, but have to say it would never have occurred to me to change my address. If that makes me a terrible, mono-viewed American, so be it. But if I lived in Harlem here in the states, would I change that address if I thought it would lower my chances? No. Would I change my address if I thought it would help my acceptance into college when I was younger? No. Would I change my name if I thought my name would somehow put me into an ethnic category that would lower my chances of being published because I knew the editor was a bigot? No. So I don't think you should change your address, either. But then again, I don't live in Israel. When I first saw your header I thought it was because it would put you in physical danger and maybe if that were the case, my answer would be different.

Gila Green said...

Thanks for your responses. So far two writers in Israel responded to me personally--not the public blog-- and both said that lying about their addresses was an absolute, hands down yes and it was well worth it to get published. They will continue to use American addresses. In my classes, I find this question particularly comes up for writers living in the Shomron.

Miriam Drori said...

This is an interesting question. I wrote my response here.

Jane Moore said...

This is interesting. I'm African American. Everything I write is informed by this. Even if I don't put the words race, black, African American in a piece the ideas & what they mean to me are in it.
I don't believe that all editors are prejudice free but I have to assume they will evaluate my story by objective standards. I'm also a woman & I'm old. Those are problems too.
Since these are what I am they're in my stories. Sure I worry about the prejudices of others but I can't pass even if I wanted
It's like life we are what we are & we can't hide it so why try?