Spertus’ new series Authors OutLoud to feature Israeli novelist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Although only 38 years old, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen has amassed a diverse and impressive array of achievements. 

BOOKS_Ayelet image
Tel Aviv novelist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen.

Although only 38 years old, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen has amassed a diverse and impressive array of achievements.  

She is an award-winning Israeli novelist whose books have been translated into 14 languages. She's a clinical psychologist, screenwriter, international correspondent who regularly works with the  BBC , and the mother to two small children. Known for suspenseful thrillers that delve into the human condition, she recently served as a visiting artist at UCLA, appropriately teaching about the psychology of writing.  

For close to a decade, Spertus Institute has spearheaded Chicago's community celebration of Jewish Book Month by focusing on a single book, explored through programs and book discussions around the city and suburbs. This year, the emphasis moves from a single book to a featured author, presenting Ayelet Gundar-Goshen for a live online conversation you can join from anywhere, part of a new series called Authors OutLoud. 

The conversation with Ayelet Gundar-Goshen takes place Sunday, Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. CST.  Tickets, which are $18 ($8 for students), are on sale through the Spertus Institute website at spertus.edu. Program login information will be provided to ticket holders 48 hours in advance.  

Gundar-Goshen became a household name in Israel when her first novel, One Night, Markovitch , won Israel's prestigious Sapir Prize for best debut novel and was recognized with Italy's Adei-Wizo Prize, which she shared with Etgar Keret.  

Waking Lions , her first book to be published in the United States, was named an Editor's Choice by The New York Times  and a Best New Book by  The Wall Street Journal . Its gripping story focuses on a neurosurgeon with a secret. As it unfolds, it touches on issues of class, race, nationality, and infallibility--in ways called "earth-shattering" by Harper's Bazaar .  

The Liar , Gundar-Goshen's newest book, was named a Best Book of the Year by Elle Magazine . Equally fast-paced and unpredictable, it explores the lure of fame and the slippery nature of truth, set against the backdrop of #metoo. 

Waking Lions and The Liar  are available for purchase through the Spertus Bookshop Affiliate Page at bookshop.org/shop/Spertus--or find them at your favorite library or bookseller.  

For the Dec. 6 program, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen will be interviewed by Spertus Dean and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Keren E. Fraiman, who first became a fan of the author's books while working at the iCenter for Israel Education. 

"Gundar-Goshen addresses highly charged situations," Fraiman said. "She compels us to gauge how her characters arrived in these situations--and to look in the mirror at our own feelings and what we would do in their place. Without hesitation, her stories embrace the moral ambiguity and complexities that exist between truth and lies, altruism and self-interest, and right and wrong." 

"Her work also speak to this moment. She asks hard questions about issues that have animated the political space in the past year. Although these issues are extremely complex, we often approach them in ways that leave little room for nuance. I hope that as we explore Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's books together, we can begin to ask similarly hard questions of ourselves and have nuanced conversations with one another." 

~Betsy Gomberg 

Cindy Sher's conversation with Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen and I recently chatted over the phone from our homes an ocean apart. We spoke just after I had finished her latest novel,  The Liar , about a young Tel Aviv woman who falsely accuses a celebrity of sexual assault. On our call, we talked about the saint and sinner within each of us; the paradox of siblings; and the biggest lesson she has learned from the pandemic. 

Q.  The Liar  was like no story I've ever read before. Where do you come up with the ideas for your novels?  

A. In all my novels, the ideas come from something that grabs me. It always starts with a question, based in real life: what can make a person do such a thing? 

Your characters aren't painted with one broad brush-as all good or all bad. Do you intentionally try to depict characters with more nuance? 

Yes, I don't want to create characters that are the ultimate saint or the ultimate sinner. We can't just divide characters into the good or the bad because in every one of us, we have good and bad. We are [each] the wolf and the lamb, the predator and the prey. It's too easy to say that some people are just bad people and the rest of us are just victims of circumstances. We [ought] to take responsibility for our full capacity of behavior. 

Your books have been translated into at least 14 languages. What's it like to have your work translated for so many people in so many different countries? 

It's very exciting and confusing at the same time. I was writing a very local story about a girl who tells a lie in Tel Aviv and then you see this girl travel. You think about a girl who tells a lie in Slovakia, in the U.S., in France, or in Russia. Then we understand how universal this theme of lying is. Every culture condemns lies, but every culture has so many lies embedded in it. When I travel, I hear these amazing stories from people about their first lies. I find the topic universal and, at the same time, it gives me a bit of comfort. 

Tell me about your upbringing in Tel Aviv. Did you grow up Jewishly observant? 

My parents are not religious, but my grandmother was a Bible teacher and my mother was a literature teacher. They would fight almost every Shabbat dinner over who was the more tragic character in the Bible. I think Judaism was very much part of the family culture, but not in a religious way. 

Do you have siblings? 

I have two younger sisters--who are twins. I wanted to write about sisterhood in  The Liar  and this experience of growing up with someone competing over the love of a mother. There is so much love in these relationships, but also so much hate and jealously. Cain and Abel basically lived in our living room on a daily basis. 

Tell us about your next novel. 

I just finished editing my fourth novel--about Israelis relocating to the United States. I find the way the two communities--the U.S. Jews and Israelis--interact with each other fascinating. 

I know that Israel recently finished a second lockdown due to the pandemic. What has the pandemic taught you so far? 

It shows us how much we need people. We like to think that we don't need people--this is the era of individuals--but we realize in the solitude of our own homes how much we need people. The one good thing that we got out of the pandemic is to realize that we're not alone here--we're all an embroidery. 

Spertus Institute's AuthorsOutloud program is part of the Solomon Goldman Lecture Series, generously endowed by the late Rose and Sidney Shure. JUF News is the program's media sponsor.  

Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community. 

"I don't want to create characters that are the ultimate saint or the ultimate sinner. We can't just divide characters into the good or the bad because in every one of us, we have good and bad."



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