Arabic for Beginners
When Hannah accompanies her husband and small children to Jerusalem for the year, she becomes fascinated with a group of expat women at her son’s daycare, as well as a young Palestinian woman named Jenna. As she grows close to Jenna, she starts to question her own marriage and her relationship to Israel. A novel of domestic and political ambivalence, Arabic for Beginners is about marriage, motherhood, friendship, nation, and the complicated ways we think of home.
Winner of the J. I. Segal 2018 Mona Elaine Adilman English Fiction and Poetry Award on a Jewish Theme.
Ariela Freedman was born in Brooklyn and has lived in Jerusalem, New York, Calgary, London, and Montreal. Her reviews and poems have appeared in Vallum, carte blanche, The Cincinnati Review and other publications, and she was selected to participate in the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s 2014 Mentorship Program. She has a Ph.D. from New York University and teaches literature at Concordia’s Liberal Arts College in Montreal, where she lives with her husband and two sons. Arabic for Beginners, her first novel, was shortlisted for the QWF First Book Prize and named one of Quill & Quire's Best Books of 2017. Her second novel is forthcoming from LLP.
“Freedman brilliantly captures the existential and alienated state that mothers of young children inhabit. Freedman's work is reminiscent of Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy.” —Heather O’Neill, author of Lullabies for Little Criminals
"Arabic for Beginners brings into sharp relief a young mother’s sabbatical year in Jerusalem in the era of the Gaza war. This is a brave, intelligent and impressive literary debut.” —Elaine Kalman Naves, author of The Book of Faith
“This account of a Canadian family's year in Israel is a study of tensions both national and interpersonal, and of the reasons relationships survive or fade away. Freedman's subtle, graceful prose spans the large and the small, the wondrous and the quotidian, as it explores the question of how certain places—and certain people—come to feel like home.” – Abigail Deutsch, winner, Shattuck Prize for Criticism