A Canadian- Israeli author of a number of books for children and young adults, Anna Levine’s most recent picture book, “Jodie’s Passover Adventure” is a joyous and playful holiday book set in Israel. Besides her wonderful use of evocative language and engaging situations which children can relate to, Anna’s work brings a glimpse of Israeli culture to a Western readership that otherwise wouldn’t know about daily life in Israel.
A celebrated poet and writer, Anna is a firm believer that life in Israel is a much more holistic experience than media headlines lead Western audiences to believe.
Below, a conversation between this blogger and Anna Levine:
YL: TELL US ABOUT YOUR LATEST BOOK:
Anna: JODIE’S PASSOVER ADVENTURE is the second book in a series about a young girl who is enamored with archaeology. The first book is JODIE’S HANUKKAH DIG. In the first book, Jodie goes to Modi’in where she is the only one of the dig small enough to crawl through a tunnel that was once used by the Maccabees. There she finds an ancient arrowhead. JODIE’S PASSOVER ADVENTURE is set in Hezekiah’s Tunnel in the City of David. What’s amazing about the tunnel is how it was built during the First Temple Period – and that water has been flowing through that same tunnel for thousands of years.
YL: What would you like to share with your readers about your personal life?
Anna: My husband is a scientist, part geneticist, biochemist and biologist. We have two boys. My eldest was a paratrooper in the IDF and now he’s studying English literature at Ben Gurion University. He’ll be getting married this summer to a woman who made aliyah from Chicago a few years ago. My youngest is still serving in the army in an elite unit.
YL: What experiences in your life led you to becoming a writer?
Anna: Feeling lost. I have traveled quite a bit and have lived in different countries and writing has been my way to try and understand the world. As a traveler there are times when you are out of control, you can’t speak the language, can’t read the signs, don’t have the right currency it’s frightening and frustrating at the moment, but when you write about it or rewrite the sequence of events it’s empowering.
YL: Has being Israeli raised any specific challenges in your career, and if so, what were they? How did you overcome them?
Anna: Am I Israeli? I would sooner call myself a Canadian living in Israel though I have lived here for over 20 years. However, if you see me in North America and ask me if I am Canadian, I’d probably say, “Not anymore.” I am perpetually an outsider. So yes, living in Israel has created a lack of belonging, and yet I do feel more at home here than any place else. One challenge I always face when beginning a novel is where to set the story. Setting is so crucial and yet there is no place that I know inside out. There are ways around this, of course, but it’s always a challenge.
YL: Does being Jewish impact on your writing in any way—and if so, how?
Anna: Being Jewish is my writing niche. When I said to the writer starting out, ask yourself who you are and where you are living, well I do that every day (especially after standing in line at the post office for hours) and my answer is what inspires my writing. When my sons were starting their military service as paratroopers, my novel FREEFALL was born. When my neighbor was studying to be a tour guide in the City of David, I was her guinea pig and JODIE’S PASSOVER ADVENTURE took shape. Getting lost in Modiin I stumbled upon the graves of the Maccabees, and JODIE’S HANUKKAH DIG was created. And when my sister was ill, “The Wednesday Club,” a short funny romantic cancer story, published in Cicada and winner of an SCBWI magazine merit award had to be written. Jewish values, Jewish holidays, and the Jewish texts all influence my work.
So while my fiction is based on my life here, my poetry is where I wander off to different horizons of the mind and allow my imagination to explore unfamiliar territories. (http://yareview.net/2011/10/pole-dancers-musings-from-the-london-british-museum-mutable-matters/)
YL: What do you hope your readers will experience or gain from your books?
Anna: A window into Israeli life: its normalcy, uniqueness and absurdity. It’s not an easy country to live in and while many of our struggles are universal, we also have the added weight of life that is particular to living here, military service, the volatile political situation, social issues that include absorption of immigrants from all over the world as well as the issue of the African refugees, security concerns and the list goes on.
Please visit my website to read some of my poems, a short story and the reviews of my books and how to order them: www.annalevine.org
YL: See below for a review of Anna’s latest book. Thanks and Lhitraot!
Hezekiah’s Tunnel or the Siloam Tunnel is underneath the City of David in Jerusalem. Children love a bit of mystery and adventure in books and this tale will encourage many to learn more about the history of Jerusalem and the tunnel itself. Held during Passover week, the story does not specifically talk about the festival, but does mention things such as the afikomen, matzah, and Hezekiah who called upon the people of Jerusalem to keep Passover. This is a fun book that would be an excellent addition to any religious library for the young reader.