I recently reviewed The Lonely Tree by Yael Politis, and described it as 'the most moving story I have read in a long time'. Now she is back with a stunning new series, and the first two books - the award winning Olivia, Mourning and The Way The World Is - have just been published on Kindle.
Yael's life has been something of an epic in itself. Today, she is my guest and I'm delighted to welcome her:
Toward the end of my freshman year in Ann Arbor my roommate
dropped The Michigan Daily on my bed and pointed at an ad. For $400 the Israeli
Students Association would arrange your flight to Tel Aviv and place you as a
volunteer on a kibbutz for the summer.
“You’re forever talking about Israel,” she said. “Why
don’t you go?”
So I did. Back then when an El Al flight landed in Tel
Aviv its audio system blared the Theme from Exodus. I felt ridiculous
when it brought tears to my eyes and even more so when I got off the plane
feeling as if I had come home.
I know the next question. Why? Reincarnation? I have
no rational explanation and never spent much time searching for one. The
feeling was simply too strong to ignore and I accepted that Israel was where I was
meant to be. And the older I get, the more I believe that none of us are as
rational as we would like to believe. The important decisions - who we marry,
where we live, how we make a living - are often leaps of faith, based on
feelings we can’t ignore.
I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, a city that
enjoyed exceptionally good schools and city services -- and was infamous for
having the most segregationist mayor in a northern state. One of his
oft-repeated quotes: "I’m not a racist. I just hate those bastards". When I went
back for my 12th high school reunion one of my former classmates confessed to
being Jewish. While she was growing up in Dearborn her mother had
strictly forbidden her to reveal that fact to anyone.
So, yes, it was an eye-opening journey from Dearborn to Tel Aviv.
Since coming to Israel I have had many
jobs, lived in a lot of different places (cities, kibbutzim, and moshavim), and
been married to and divorced from two husbands. Life was seldom easy, but I
have never regretted making my home here.
The place I lived the longest - and where I raised my
children - was in the Katif Bloc in the Gaza Strip. It was there I started to
write, on an old Smith-Corona typewriter. I knew the tragic story of what had
happened decades earlier, on the eve of Israel’s independence,
in a similar bloc of settlements - the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem. No one had ever
written a fictional account of it, but I felt it was “too big” for me to
attempt and turned to other stories.
Then the first intifada broke out and we were - like
the settlers of Kfar Etzion - attacked on the roads and under constant threat.
But I felt fairly safe; the IDF was there. It made me think again about the
people who had chosen to live in Kfar Etzion - and hundreds of other
settlements like it - when a Jewish state had seemed like a wild dream. How
could they have lived like this but without an army, protected by only a few
men and youths with little training and not enough obsolete weapons to go
around, and so soon after the Holocaust had made it all too clear that threats
of intent to wipe a nation of the face of the earth are not empty? That’s when
my first novel, The Lonely Tree, was born. I don’t agree with its
heroine, Tonia Shulman, but I understand her perfectly.
I have always kept a strong connection with my family
and in writing the Olivia Series am revisiting my roots in Michigan. My ancestors
were savers and I finally sifted through the big red box of diaries, letters,
deeds, marriage certificates, etc. that for decades had moved with me from
apartment to apartment but sat neglected in the corner.
The next book in the series will take me back to Dearborn and I know I
will have a great time writing it.
So that’s my schizophrenic life - from the Midwest to the Middle East and back again.
Thank you Yael. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Olivia series and can't wait for the third. Here's the cover description for Olivia, Mourning :
Olivia wants the 80 acres in far off Michigan that her father left to
whichever of his offspring wants to stake a claim. As Olivia says, "I'm
sprung off him just as much as Avis or Tobey."
The problem: she's seventeen, female, and it's 1841.
Mourning Free knows how to run a farm and Olivia has complete trust in him.
The problem: he’s black, the orphaned son of runaway slaves, and
reluctant to travel and work with a white girl. He especially fears the
slave catchers who patrol the free states, hunting fugitive slaves.
Not without qualms, they set off together. All goes well, despite the
drudgery of survival in an isolated log cabin. Incapable of
acknowledging her feelings for Mourning, Olivia thinks her biggest
problem is her unrequited romantic interest in their young, single
Then her world falls apart.
vulnerable, and compassionate, Olivia is a compelling protagonist on a
journey to find a way to do the right thing in a world in which so much
2013 Quarter-Finalist ABNA
2010 Book of the Year YWO
Now here's the cover description for The Way The World Is:
Detroit Michigan, 1842 - After the devastating trauma she suffered in Olivia, Mourning and
finally knowing the reality with which she must deal, Olivia strives to
rebuild herself – emotionally, socially, and financially.
She starts a new life in Detroit, the young and exciting city on a river
where she has come to feel at home. New friends help the healing
process, while she continues her search for the two people she loves,
who have disappeared from her life. She finds the greatest solace in
helping fugitive slaves escape over the river to Canada. She believes,
as one of her new friends says, “In this time and place it is the most
worthy thing a person can do.”
Olivia remains a compelling protagonist on a journey to find a way to do the right thing in a world in which so much is wrong.
You can buy The Way The World Is here: Amazon
You can find out more about Yael HERE