Gila Green's White Zion
Gila Green writes fiction that explores Jews and Judaism on a very broad canvas that includes Ashkenazi,Yemenite, and Sephardi Jews. She creates characters that deal with immigration and its issues that are similar to her own family's. Like many authors who create their own cultural worlds, in White Zion, Green has developed worlds filled with everyday details that are poignant and often cruel and difficult. She is a wonderfully evocative writer that I intend to follow.
White Zion is a collection of short stories by an author whose parents come from distinct Jewish cultures. Her paternal ancestors left Yemen in the 1880’s to come to Ottoman Palestine; her father was raised in British Mandate Palestine while her mother grew up in Canada. Living in Canada, then Israel, Gila reveals a great deal about many immigrant cultures, what they share and what is strongly distinctive. Her characters are from the multi-cultural worlds in which she grew up in Canada and in Israel, to which she immigrated and now lives. Even though her prose and characters derive from her imagination, some of her family life is interwoven.
About her own writing, she notes, “My stories are about everyday people tackling immigration, racism, colonialism, occupation, alienation, war, politics, abuse, romance, poverty, terrorism, and survival.” Her writing is wonderfully evocative, revealed in her characters and plot and in their lives’ difficulties. I was drawn in immediately and thought to myself, “Gila is a serious writer.”
She shared with me that she holds a magnifying glass to whatever she is trying to say, usually through a character. A strength in her writing is how she portrays location. In another interview she stated, “I believed changing location would immediately alter my characters. Characters derive from location and not the other way around, though many writers begin with characters, I always begin with location in time and space….Though many don't wish to admit it, we are all products of our time and location. The way we speak, eat, dress, our values.”
She uses the Yemenite immigration to Israel in many of her stories. The Yemenite culture is an exotic one from a Western point of view and through her characters Gila reveals many harsh relationships and prejudices that made life difficult for the Temani immigrant both in Israel and Canada. An immigrant herself, Gila shares the immigrant experience. “Growing up with an immigrant father and living as an immigrant in Israel, surrounded by thousands of other immigrants, I would have to say yes, there are shared experiences but differences, too. It depends what tools you immigrate with.”
Gila has written Passport Control, a novel about a Canadian coming to study in Haifa, replete with misadventures, grappling with the Israeli bureaucracy and adapting to Israeli society. She is writing a young adult series that she said “features an Ottawa heroine who takes on an elephant poaching ring in South Africa's Kruger National Park.” She has been published in two dozen magazines and anthologies and has been nominated for or short listed for seven international awards.
Gila has a rich life with 5 children, a career as a writer, a writing instructor and editor. Growing up with parents from different cultures in Canada and then becoming an immigrant herself by moving to Israel, it is no wonder that her characters are bursting with life and its struggles. With 4 novels under her belt, Gila engages with her prose in a way that makes her a writer to watch and read. She’s on my list to follow.
This Classic Moroccan Fish recipe is a favorite at Gila’s house, straight from a real Moroccan kitchen connected to her family. While the original recipe uses Beam Fish, Gila usually makes it with salmon, as we show in the recipe here.