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Biography & Autobiography Literary

The Art of Leaving

A Memoir

by (author) Ayelet Tsabari

Initial publish date
Feb 2020
Literary, Personal Memoirs
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
    List Price
    $19.99 USD
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2020
    List Price

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An unforgettable memoir about a young woman who tries to outrun loss, but eventually finds a way home.

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.

About the author

Ayelet Tsabari was born in Israel to a large family of Yemeni descent. She wrote her first story in English in 2007. She is the author of The Art of Leaving, winner of the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Memoir, finalist for the Writer's Trust Hilary Weston Prize, finalist for the Vine Awards for Nonfiction, and an Apple Books, CBC Books, and Kirkus Review Best Book of 2019. Her first book, The Best Place On Earth, won both the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish Fiction, was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and Kirkus Review Best Book of 2016, and has been published internationally. Her translations appeared in the New Quarterly, Berlin Quarterly, Paper Brigade, and Mantis. She teaches creative writing at The University of King's College MFA, the University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA, and at Tel Aviv University. She lives in Toronto.

Ayelet Tsabari's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Paste Magazine’s Most Anticipated Essay Collections of 2019

No Source

“In The Art of Leaving, Ayelet Tsabari excavates the dark loam of her memory, unearthing treasure after treasure. Her discoveries are nuanced, complex, and beautiful. These essays are timely and urgent, and they’ve been polished ‘til they shine.”

Alison Pick, author of <em>Between Gods: A Memoir</em> and <em>Strangers Within the Same Dream</em>

Globe and Mail’s Winter Preview: Books to Keep You Warm

No Source

“Told in a series of fierce, unflinching essays . . . an Israeli Canadian author explores her upbringing and the death of her father in this stark, beautiful memoir.” 

Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“Ayelet Tsabari’s memoir is a passionate account of the pain, fire and fury of adolescence and young adulthood, the search for a sense of belonging and reconciling the disparate part of our lives and ultimately ourselves.”

Camilla Gibb, author of <em>This is Happy</em> and <em>The Beauty of Humanity Movement</em>

“The Art of Leaving deftly illustrates the ways home can be any or all of the above, simultaneously or at different times in our lives. The book pushes readers to examine their own personal and political histories and to question the ways those histories fit into a bigger, global picture.”

<em>Quill & Quire</em>

WINNER of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish Fiction


Toronto Star’s 20 Books I can’t wait to read in 2019

No Source

“A well-crafted literary snapshot of love relationships amid shellfire and suicide bomb. Tsabari emerges as a writer to show a new way to look at the world amid the confluence of love and death, sex and survival.”

Vancouver Sun

“Candid, affecting . . . [Ayelet Tsabari’s] linked essays cohere into a tender, moving memoir.”

<em>Kirkus Reviews </em><strong>(starred review)</strong>

“It’s impossible not to be awestruck by the depth and power rendered in Tsabari’s stories—she does so much with so little.”

“Warm, intimate, and humane.”

<em>New York Journal of Books</em>

“A notable debut…. Issues of assimilation and belonging… are approached here in specific ways that both trouble the underlying cultural conversations and tell moving stories.”

The Globe and Mail

“Powerful… Brilliant… The stories depict minorities so skillfully, with such a light and accurate touch.”

Daily Beast

“Ayelet Tsabari has written a beautiful, complex and emotionally breathtaking memoir. . . . The Art of Leaving is a marvel of a book, at once tender and fearless, from a writer at the peak of her creative powers.”

Kamal Al-Solaylee, award-winning author of <em>Intolerable</em> and <em>Brown</em>

LONGLISTED for The Frank O’Conner International Short Story Award


“Compassionate, compelling… Her stories speak out from from the heart of Israeli society and experiences. The stories of The Best Place on Earth leave you wishing they wouldn’t end. Highly recommended.”

The Times of Israel

“Tsabari is in prime form, capturing in mercilessly precise prose hard-to-do-justice-to feelings. . . . This is a writer who is capable of holding your throbbing heart in one hand while pressing the tip of her pen to your jugular with the other.”

Ivan Coyote, author of <em>Tomboy Survival Guide</em> and <em>Rebent Sinner</em>

“Long after finishing The Art of Leaving, I’m still craving adventure, and still thinking through Tasbari’s nuanced reflections on what it means to be a mother and a wanderer in a world that says women can’t be both.”

Mandy Len Catron, author of <em>How to Fall in Love with Anyone</em>

CBC’s 19 Works of Nonfiction to Check Out in Spring 2019

No Source

Praise for The Best Place on Earth


WINNER of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature


“Tsabari’s characters represent the complexities that really define Israel, the differing people jostling one another in this tiny plot of land on the Mediterranean. Their tales are fascinating.”

Toronto Star

“The best place on Earth is wherever you are reading Ayelet Tsabari’s debut short story collection. Filled with vivid characters and compelling storytelling.”

CBC Books’ Writers to Watch

“Superb. . . . deep in meaning, rich in imagery and continuously engaging.”

<em>Canadian Jewish News</em>

Kveller’s 7 Must-Read Memoirs by Moms

No Source

“Ayelet Tsabari is a fierce-tender writer. Her work is an enchanting mix of vivid anecdote and vigorous insight—spanning generations and geographies, glittering with humour and heart.”

Kyo Maclear, author of <em>Birds Art Life</em>

The Art of Leaving is, in large part, about what is passed down to us, and how we react to whatever it is. . . . [It] is not self-help—we cannot become whatever we put our mind to—yet it suggests that we can begin to heal from what has broken us, if we only let ourselves. . . . Tsabari’s intense prose gave me pause.”

<em>New York Times Book Review </em>

“Insightful. . . Readers will be moved by Tsabari’s colorful, intimate memoir.”

<em>Publishers Weekly</em>

New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice


“The Art of Leaving will take you on an emotional journey you won’t soon forget.”

Hello Giggles

“Impressive… Brutally honest… Smart, sad and sincere…The characters imagined by Tsabari are achingly human and almost flawlessly fashioned.”

Winnipeg Free Press

“Stunning… Tsabari creates complex, conflicted, prickly people you’ll want to get to know better.”

<em>Kirkus Reviews </em><strong>(starred review)</strong>

Kirkus Review Best Fiction of 2016


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