Dina Elenbogen and Aviya Kushner - "Drawn from Water" and "The Grammar of God"

Sunday, January 24, 2016 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm

Dina Elenbogen and Aviya Kushner will discuss "Drawn from Water" and "The Grammar of God."

At the Co-op


"Elenbogen's writing provides passionate insights into questions of identity how identity is an extraordinary mix of the individual, cultural, and tribal. In Drawn from Water, those aspects are further complicated by differences in language, landscape, politics, and history. In bridging those, Elengogen has forged a powerful story of dislocation and homecoming, one that is global in scope, personal in depth." -Sue William Silverman

About Drawn From Water: An American Poet, An Ethiopian family, an Israeli Story - What do we mean by home? In Drawn From Water, American Jew Dina Elenbogen explores her thirty-year friendship with Ethiopian Jewish immigrants in Israel as they struggle in a new country while dealing with her own desire to join them there. Thirty years ago, Operation Moses airlifted thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, where today they, immigrants from other years, and descendants form a community over 100,000 strong. Through the stories of the children Osnat, Elad, and their siblings, Elenbogen raises questions about religion, assimilation, and cultural identity. The author's poetic voice examines immigration in all its forms, success and failure, adaptation and resistance. Black Ethiopians suffer discrimination, and are hindered by cultural and language difficulties, yet the children eventually attend college, marry, and have families of their own. Dina's personal journey parallels theirs, but poetry and the arts give her a bridge between her life in America and her desire for Israel.

About Dina Elenbogen - Dina Elenbogen, an award winning poet and prose writer, is author of the memoir, Drawn from Water: An American Poet, An Ethiopian family, an Israeli Story (BKMKPress, University of Missouri April, 2015) and the poetry collection Apples of the Earth, (Spuyten Duyvil Press in 2006)   She has received fellowships in poetry and prose from the Illinois Arts Council and Ragdale Foundation.

Her poetry and prose has has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines including City of the Big Shoulders (University of Iowa, press, 2012), Where We Find Ourselves: Jewish Women Around the World Write About Home (SUNY Press) Beyond Lament (Northwestern University Press), Without a Single Answer: Poems on Contemporary Israel (Judah Magnes Museum Press), and magazines such as Prairie Schooner, Bellevue Literary Review,  December Magazine,Tikkun, After Hours, The Economy, Calyx, Poet Lore, Rhino, Paterson Literary Review., new City Chicago, The Times of Israel, The Chicago Reader and other venues.

Dina has a MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writer's Workshop and teaches creative writing at the University of Chicago Graham School where she received the 2012 Excellence in teaching award. 

“A remarkable and passionately original book of meditation, exegesis, and memoir. In Kushner’s redemptive vision, the Bible in its many translations is a Noah’s ark, and her book, too, does a work of saving. When I put it down, I wept.”—Rosanna Warren, author of Stained Glass

About The Grammar of God: A Journey Into the Words and Worlds of the Bible - Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking family, reading the Bible in the original Hebrew and debating its meaning over the dinner table. She knew much of it by heart—and was therefore surprised when, while getting her MFA at the University of Iowa, she took the novelist Marilynne Robinson’s class on the Old Testament and discovered she barely recognized the text she thought she knew so well. From differences in the Ten Commandments to a less ambiguous reading of the creation story to a new emphasis on the topic of slavery, the English translation often felt like another book entirely from the one she had grown up with.

Kushner began discussing the experience with Robinson, who became a mentor, and her interest in the differences between the ancient language and the modern one gradually became an obsession. She began what became a ten-year project of reading different versions of the Hebrew Bible in English and traveling the world in the footsteps of the great biblical translators, trying to understand what compelled them to take on a lifetime project that was often considered heretical and in some cases resulted in their deaths.

In this eye-opening chronicle, Kushner tells the story of her vibrant relationship to the Bible, and along the way illustrates how the differences in translation affect our understanding of our culture’s most important written work. A fascinating look at language and the beliefs we hold most dear, The Grammar of God is also a moving tale about leaving home and returning to it, both literally and through reading.

About Aviya Kushner - Aviya Kushner's first book, The Grammar of God: A Journey Into the Words and Worlds of the Bible (Spiegel & Grau/ Random House 2015) is about the experience of reading the Bible in English after a lifetime of reading it in Hebrew. Once a travel columnist for The International Jerusalem Post, she now teaches at Columbia College Chicago, and is also a contributing editor at A Public Space and a mentor at The National Yiddish Book Center.

Event Location: 
Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637