The Art of Leaving

The Art of Leaving is a memoir by Ayelet Tsabari.

Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet Tsabari was 21 years old the first time she left Tel Aviv with no plans to return. Restless after two turbulent mandatory years in the Israel Defense Forces, Tsabari longed to get away. It was not the never-ending conflict that drove her, but the grief that had shaken the foundations of her home. The loss of Tsabari's beloved father in years past had left her alienated and exiled within her own large Yemeni family and at odds with her Mizrahi identity. By leaving, she would be free to reinvent herself and to rewrite her own story.

For nearly a decade, Tsabari travelled, through India, Europe, the US and Canada, as though her life might go stagnant without perpetual motion. She moved fast and often because — as in the Intifada — it was safer to keep going than to stand still. Soon the act of leaving — jobs, friends and relationships — came to feel most like home.

But a series of dramatic events forced Tsabari to examine her choices and her feelings of longing and displacement. By periodically returning to Israel, Tsabari began to examine her Jewish-Yemeni background and the Mizrahi identity she had once rejected, as well as unearthing a family history that had been untold for years. What she found resonated deeply with her own immigrant experience and struggles with new motherhood.

Beautifully written, frank and poignant, The Art of Leaving is a courageous coming-of-age story that reflects on identity and belonging and that explores themes of family and home — both inherited and chosen. (From HarperCollins Canada)

Tsabari was a finalist for the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize and won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for her debut short story collection The Best Place on Earth.

Why Ayelet Tsabari wrote The Art of Leaving

"It somehow felt safer to me to be the one in charge — who's doing the leaving. When you're in your twenties you do a lot of things without much thought. For a long time, I didn't really know what I was doing. Then, when I realized that I had a habit of not staying in one place, I sort of fell in love with that. I looked at it romantically. I liked that image. I was pleased to be different.

It somehow felt safer to me to be the one in charge — who's doing the leaving.- Ayelet Tsabari

"It took me a long time to realize that there was such a cost to that, as well. Leaving became the thing that I do. It somehow gave me reassurance — like, 'I can always go. I can always leave.' Until it became the thing that I did best." 

Read more in her interview with The Next Chapter.

Interviews with Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet Tsabari talks to Shelagh Rogers about her book, The Art of Leaving.

Other books by Ayelet Tsabari


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