Photo Credit Courtesy of Yamit Armbrister
About “One Moroccan Woman”
This novel, written around true historical events, has all the things that go into a good read. There’s mystery, intrigue, romance, sorrow, heartbreak, and the triumph of the human spirit over all obstacles. The main character, Tamar and her family are Jewish, living in Morocco during the 1950s, a time of increasing violence toward the Jewish populace. Until that time they had lived a peaceful, respectful coexistence with various ethnic groups. When their home was burned to the ground, they knew it was time to leave their homeland. They made the decision to move to Israel. Once on Israeli soil, they thought they’d be transported to a modern city such as Tel Aviv. To their surprise and acute disappointment, they were left in a barren place known as Kiryat-Gat, and told they must build a city. The challenges were almost more than they could bear, but they persevered through hardship as their surroundings and their lives began to take on new meaning and purpose.
The Novelist Used Historical Events
Yamit Armbrister, the novelist who wrote “One Moroccan Woman, used her family’s life as an inspiration for the story of Tamar. It is a tribute to her family, whose home was in Morocco for many generations. When they fled to Israel they were heartsick at losing everything they owned. They had few belongings and had to do without food at times. When you read the book, remember that most of it came from her grandmothers, who were the ones who lived through it. Below you will find an interview with the author, who tells her inspiration and the methods employed to write the book.
Photo Credit Courtesy of Yamit Arbrister
Yamit Armbrister, Author of “One Moroccan Woman”
On Thursday, October 30th, 2014, I interviewed Yamit Armbrister, the author of “One Moroccan Woman,” by email. I asked her the questions I thought my readers might want to know. Here is that interview.
NH: Is Yamit Armbrister your real name or a pen name?
YA: Yamit Armbrister is my real name. I don’t have a pen name.
NH: For those readers who have not yet read “One Moroccan Woman,” what was your inspiration for writing it?
YA: I wrote “One Moroccan Woman” as a tribute to both my Moroccan Jewish grandmothers who were extraordinary, each in her own way. However, the reason I found myself sitting in front of the computer one day and starting to type came from being homesick for my homeland, Israel. It took me many years to realize that leaving a country is challenging on many levels. From the lowest point of my homesickness, I realized how privileged I truly was to immigrate to the United States of America, not Israel of the 1950s as my grandparents did. It was the first time in my life that I understood the hardships, challenges and heartaches of which they spoke. Their stories came alive in my mind and I realized I was fortunate to CHOOSE to leave Israel, not forced, to leave my homeland. I was lucky to come to a well-established country, not a country in its inception stage as Israel was back then. At that moment, I felt the closest to my grandparents and from that came the strong passion to tell their story. Of course, it is the story of 300,000 Moroccan Jews, who fled what they saw as their homeland for 2,000 years, to a country that was not yet ready to welcome them.
Continuing Interview With Yamit Armbrister
NH: Have you personally visited or lived in Morocco?
YA: I have not lived in or visited Morocco. In order to write the first half of the book and be as authentic as possible, I have interviewed dozens of Moroccan Jews who remembered what it was like living in Morocco in the 1950s. I have eight hours of videotape of my dear grandmother before she developed Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m thankful for the memories I now have of that day and for the lifetime souvenir of the video. In my research, I also read “2000 years of Jewish Life in Morocco,” by Haim Zaafrani and many other books, articles and websites on the subject. My research and the completion of “One Moroccan Woman” took about four years.
“I have eight hours of videotape of my dear grandmother before she developed Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m thankful for the memories I now have of that day and for the lifetime souvenir of the video.”
NH: Do you schedule writing time each day, or write as you feel inspired?
YA: I only write when I’m inspired but it’s not very difficult for me to be inspired. Writing is what I want to do all day as long as I have a story to tell. If I could, it would be the only thing I’d do, write and write!
NH: Do you take notes on possible stories and if so, do you have an organizing tip?
YA: Writing is a passion; as such I don’t force myself to come up with ideas for future stories. The idea for a novel somehow comes into my mind and it will either develop into a complete storyline or not. My next novel, for instance, is “Between Egypt and Canaan.” The idea came to me when I read an article about the Cohanim, Jewish priests. That moment, I knew I wanted to write a Biblical story and began working on the concept. Once I get that inspiration, I scribble down ideas for the storyline but it is only at the very basic level, a mere few lines. Then, I prepare questions, such as: What is the problem in the story? How will it be resolved? Who are my main characters and in which time, era, setting, will the story take place? When I have these answers I begin my research. I spend months researching everything I think I’ll need to know, putting each of them into categorized folders. I keep updating my questions and cross each one off as I find the answer. When I feel I know enough, I begin writing freely, without building chapters in advance or knowing how the story will evolve. As soon as I begin typing, the story takes shape and the characters come alive. Then I edit a rough draft, deleting chapters that are unnecessary or that contribute nothing to the storyline. “One Moroccan Woman” began as 470 pages when I’d finished the rough draft. It took two years to polish and edit and re-edit until it reached its current length of 233 pages.
NH: It’s been said that writers are the most avid readers: Is this also true of you, and if so, do you have a favorite kind or a favorite author?
YA: I’ve been an avid reader, a bookworm, since I was a child. My mother used to find me with a flashlight under the blanket, reading in ungodly hours of the night. I still read an average of a book per week but my life is much more hectic now. Still, I’m always in the middle of a book. I read many different genres, but I only follow certain authors until my mood changes or my interest wanes. When I was young I loved science fiction and thrillers. I read many Stephen King books at the time. As a young woman I read a lot of romance, so I followed authors such as Danielle Steel. Later I found fantasy very interesting as well as historical fiction. When I studied for my MBA, I read only business, non-fiction, for about two years. Lately I’ve been reading books that other friends recommend. Some of my most favorite books are
- “The Red Tent,” by Anita Diamant (Biblical fiction)
- “Sarah’s Key,” by Tatiana de Rosnay
- “Who Moved My Cheese,” by Spencer Johnson (a business fable)
- “The Kite Runner” and “One Thousand Splendid Suns,” by Haled Hussieni
- “The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern (fiction)
- “Israela,” by Batya Casper (fiction)
- The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
- “Jerusalem Maiden,” by Carner Talia (Historical fiction) and many, many more.
NH: What do you think is the single most important thing that readers can take from your book?
YA: This is a very hard question and I’m not sure I could single out one thing that I wish my readers would take from “One Moroccan Woman.” As an avid reader, I know that each person will love different parts of the novel, and/or identify with a different character. We all come from varied backgrounds, religions, families and cultures. As such, the same things do not always touch our hearts. Still, “One Moroccan Woman” is about the triumph of the human spirit, something we all have in common. I wanted to tell through the main character, Tamar, that we can overcome the most challenging events in our lives if we stop fighting destiny and stop resisting our heritage and who we are. I wanted to show marriage relationships and love in the most realistic way. In addition I wanted to tell the story of how Israel came to be. Most of all I want readers to know more about the wonderful heritage of the Moroccan Jews who fled the only homeland they knew for 2,000 years. I also wish my readers to know more about the historical facts behind Israel’s early days and the people who came to live there.
NH: Thank you Yamit, for your courtesy and generosity in granting this interview and for telling such an important story in “One Moroccan Woman.” I’m sure my readers are looking forward to reading your book.
So…For my writing friends, how do YOU prepare for writing?
Yamit Armbrister did exhaustive research for her book. I also use research (thank goodness for the internet!) when I write anything that has a factual, historical, or eventful background. Just about the time I think I know all I need, I will spy something that tells me there’s more to it, and here we go again! Sometimes that’s good, because I discover some part that I really needed, to tie the details all together. But then, there are times when it’s easy to become distracted with hundreds of trivial, fascinating details, that use our time, but provide no added value to our work. When we research, we need to focus on exactly what is needed for the subject and that’s not always easy to do. Please leave a comment, either on the book, this review or on your preparations to write.