“The Art of Leaving” by Ayelet Tsabari— A Memoir in Essays

Tsabari, Ayelet. “The Art of Leaving: A Memoir”, Random House, 2019/

A Memoir in Essays

Amos Lassen

Ayelet Tsabari is an award-winning Israeli writer who has traveled the world in searc of love, belonging, and an escape from grief following the death of her father when she was a young girl. We begin with the death of her father when she was nine years old. His death left Ayelet feeling rootless, devastated, and driven to question her complex identity as an Israeli of Yemeni descent in a country that both suppressed and devalued her ancestors’ traditions. Having lived in Israel for many years and having had many Israeli/Yemenite friends. I immediately recognized Tsabari’s feelings.

Early on Tsabari writes of her early love of word and putting pen to paper and we move with her to her
rebellion during her mandatory service in the Israeli army. She begins to travel from Israel to New York, Canada, Thailand, and India, falling in and out of love with countries, men and women, drugs and alcohol. In effect, she was running away from/ She writes about her first marriage and her struggle to define herself as a writer in a new language, her decision to become a mother, and finally her rediscovery and embrace of her family history which was “a history marked by generations of headstrong women who struggled to choose between their hearts and their homes.” She ultimately realized that she must reconcile the memories of her father and the sadness of her past if she was ever going to come to terms with herself. Tsabari writes with emotion that she passes on to her readers and what we see here is basically a meditation about the lengths we go to while trying to escape our grief and the search to find the place where we belong, and the sense of home deep within ourselves.
Written as a collection of linked essays, this memoir is filled with passion and pain; the fear of adolescence and the army, the apprehensions about adulthood, the search for a sense of belonging, and the reconciliation of “the disparate parts of our lives and ultimately ourselves.” 
The memoir captures and transcends her journey of self-discovery as a Jewish Yemeni woman within and beyond the borders of Israel. Tsabari is tender and fearless as she digs into her memory and shares her nuanced, complex, and beautiful findings with us.