Ayelet Tsabari has been named this year’s winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for her collection of stories, “The Best Place on Earth.” The award, recognizing an emerging writer, carries a cash prize of $100,000.
“The Best Place on Earth,” set in Israel, was published in Canada in 2013. Tsabari was born in Israel to a family of Yemeni descent and now lives in Toronto where she writes and teaches creative writing. She published her first work at the age of 10 in a children’s magazine and has been writing stories in English since 2006.
In a statement, Tsabari said, “I grew up not seeing myself and my family in literature, so writing “The Best Place on Earth” was a way to create the characters that were missing from my childhood stories.”
“By portraying characters of Mizrahi background I was hoping to complicate readers' perceptions of Israel and Jewishness, and to expand and broaden their ideas of what a Jewish story and Jewish experience can be.”
Kenneth Bonert, author of “The Lion Seeker,” was named as the runner-up and will be awarded a prize of $25,000.
The finalists are Yelena Akhtiorskaya, author of “Panic in a Suitcase,” Molly Antopol, author of “The UnAmericans” and Boris Fishman, author of “A Replacement Life.” This year’s winners and finalists all address issues of identity, displacement and cultural shifts across generations and continents in their fiction.
The Rohr Prize has been given annually since 2007 and recognizes works of fiction and nonfiction in alternating years. The winners and finalists will be celebrated at a public program at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on May 6, 2015 at 7 p.m.