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White Zion is a collection of short stories by an author whose parents come from distinct cultures. Her father was born and raised in British Mandate Israel while her mother is Canadian. Living in Canada, then Israel, Gila reveals a great deal about both cultures, what they share and what is strongly distinctive. Her characters are from the dual worlds that she grew up in and, later from Israel, to which she immigrated and now lives. Even though her prose and characters derive from her imagination, much of her family is interwoven
About her own writing, she notes, "I often write fiction that explores Jews and Judaism on a very broad canvas that includes both Ashkenazi, Yemenite, and Sephardi Jews. This wide range of Jewish characters is something I've always found lacking in much of the Jewish literature I love.
"My stories are about everyday people tackling immigration, racism, colonialism, occupation, alienation, war, politics, abuse, romance, poverty, terrorism, and survival."
Her writing is wonderfully evocative, revealed in her characters and plot and in their lives' difficulties. I was drawn in immediately and thought to myself, "Gila is a serious writer."
She holds a magnifying glass to whatever she is trying to say, usually though a character, she shared with me. A strength in her writing is how she portrays location. In another interview she stated, "I believed changing location would immediately alter my characters. Characters derive from location and not the other way around, though many writers begin with characters, I always begin with location in time and space….Though many don't wish to admit it, we are all products of our time and location. The way we speak, eat, dress, our values."
She uses the Yemenite immigration to Israel in many of these stories. The Yemenite culture is an exotic one from a Western point of view and Gila reveals many harsh relationships and prejudice that made life difficult for the Temani immigrant both in Israel and Canada, as her own father experienced. An immigrant herself, Gila does share the immigrant experience. "Growing up with an immigrant father and living as an immigrant in Israel, surrounded by thousands of other immigrants, I would have to say yes, there are shared experiences but differences, too. It depends what tools you immigrate with."
Gila has a rich life with 5 children, a career as a writer, a writing instructor and editor. Growing up with parents from different cultures in Canada and then becoming an immigrant herself by moving to Israel. It is no wonder that her characters are bursting with life and its struggles. With 4 novels under her belt, Gila engages with her prose in a way that makes her a writer to watch and read. She's on my list to follow.
This Classic Moroccan Fish recipe is a favorite at Gila's house, straight from a real Moroccan kitchen connected to her family. While the original recipe uses Beam Fish, Gila usually makes it with salmon. Use your favorite fish!
Bio: Susan Weintrob is a retired university English instructor and Jewish day school administrator.