Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Dirty Dozen, with Ayelet Tsabari

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Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet Tsabari is an Israeli-born writer and the author of the short fiction collection The Best Place on Earth (HarperCollins Canada).

The stories in this debut collection are populated by Israelis of all stripes, whose concerns are more personal than political, whose lives are influenced by their unique country of birth and yet whose experiences feel universal.

As part of our Dirty Dozen series, Ayelet has shared twelve unexpected facts about herself both personally and as a writer. Read on to hear about Ayelet's barefoot adventures, why you would want her to take your order in a restaurant and the (unexpected) country of her obsession.

  1. I published my first poem when I was nine. It was called Why?
  2. At fifteen, I became a journalist. I worked for a hugely popular Israeli teen magazine, publishing articles, reviews, columns, fiction and sometimes (awful) poetry. I ended up skipping school a lot which neither my mother nor my teachers approved of (see number 3).
  3. I nearly got kicked out of high school twice. Once in grade ten, for failing in five subjects (Chemistry, Math, Physics, Biology and Citizenship. See a pattern here?) and the second time for writing an article for the teen magazine about the joys of skipping school. I also had E in behaviour that year. No one in my entire year had an E. It wasn’t even a real mark. My mother had to beg the school to let me stay the first time. The second time, I appealed to the principle’s sense of right and wrong, freedom of speech, blah blah blah. It actually worked.
  4. I served in the Israeli army between the ages of 18 and 20. I was an even worse soldier than I was a student. During that time, I got kicked out of three units and stood nine trials. The last one, two months before my release from the army, carried the highest stakes. I had been put on probation for my last offense (abandoning post: I left my office for an extended lunch break at the beach) so if I was found guilty I would have been thrown in jail. It was paramount that I get off the hook. I took a risk and refused to be tried by the officer who had presided over my previous hearings and hated my guts by now, and ended up appearing before a higher-ranking officer who didn’t know me for the troublemaker I was. Luckily, I managed to convince her of my innocence. It was the only time I was found not guilty in my entire military career.
  5. For a couple of years in my teens I thought wanted to be an actress. At nineteen, I landed the best job ever: I was an actress in a live commercial. I sat at the movie theater, and when my ‘husband’ showed up on the silver screen, sipping coffee with another woman, I got up from my seat and yelled at him. Hilarity ensued. We proceeded to have a heated conversation before I stormed out of the theatre. I watched a lot of free movies and made loads of cash.
  6. I once travelled for two months in Thailand barefoot. My flip flops went missing from the front steps of a restaurant and I was too broke to purchase new ones. I ate coconuts and fruit off the trees and a lot of plain rice with chili sauce, and relied on the kindness of friends and strangers. I guess I was a dirty hippie. It was wonderful.
  7. I use to faint a lot in my twenties. Most of my friends had to slap me awake or pick me up from their bathroom floor at one point or another. I sometimes fainted in the street in front of strangers. I don’t do that anymore. It was likely due to excessive pot smoking.
  8. I was a waitress for thirteen years and I was really really good at it. It’s like a gift. I was really fast and I remembered everything. I could take an order from a group of ten without a notepad. For fun, I sometimes even repeated a different order I made up just to mess with customers’ heads.
  9. I once put a man in jail for grabbing my breasts on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.
  10. I’ve been to India four times, a total of nearly two years, and I’m a bit of an Indophile. I watch Bollywood movies, sing along to the songs (bastardizing the lyrics), and I make a mean saag paneer. I can eat Indian food every single day and be content. People often think I’m Indian and I like that.
  11. I’m a closet comic artist. I love drawing cartoons of my friends for their birthdays. I also wrote four tiny comic books for my partner detailing our adventures, complete with silly x-rated sex scenes.
  12. If I was a superhero, my two superpowers would be my freaky sense of smell — my friends say I should work for the police — and my annoyingly good memory. My memory saved me in high school (in ninth grade history was my only perfect mark). My partner calls me his external hard drive.

Ayelet Tsabari is an Israeli of Yemeni descent; she grew up in Israel, served in the army and moved to Canada in 1998. She is a two-time winner of the EVENT Creative Non-Fiction Contest and has been published in literary magazines such as PRISM, Grain and Room. Her unpublished non-fiction manuscript was shortlisted for the First Book Competition sponsored by Anvil Press and SFU’s Writer’s Studio. She is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of Guelph and lives in Toronto, where she is at work on a novel. Learn more at or follow her on Twitter @AyeletTsabari.

For more information about The Best Place on Earth please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the Dirty Dozen interviews in our archives.

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JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications


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