Moriel Rothman-Zecher - "Sadness is a White Bird"

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Moriel Rothman-Zecher

Nuanced, sharp, and beautifully written, Sadness Is a White Bird manages, with seeming effortlessness, to find something fresh and surprising and poignant in the classic coming-of-age, love-triangle narrative, something starker, more heartbreaking: something new.” — Michael Chabon

Moriel Rothman-Zecher discusses his new book, Sadness is a White Bird

At the Co-op.

RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested but not required.)

About the book: In this lyrical and searing debut novel written by a rising literary star and MacDowell Fellow, a young man is preparing to serve in the Israeli army while also trying to reconcile his close relationship to two Palestinian siblings with his deeply ingrained loyalties to family and country.

The story begins in an Israeli military jail, where—four days after his nineteenth birthday—Jonathan stares up at the fluorescent lights of his cell, and recalls the series of events that led him there. 

Two years earlier: Moving back to Israel after several years in Pennsylvania, Jonathan is ready to fight to preserve and defend the Jewish state, which his grandfather—a Salonican Jew whose community was wiped out by the Nazis—helped establish. But he is also conflicted about the possibility of having to monitor the occupied Palestinian territories, a concern that grows deeper and more urgent when he meets Nimreen and Laith—the twin daughter and son of his mother’s friend.

From that winter morning on, the three become inseparable: wandering the streets on weekends, piling onto buses toward new discoveries, laughing uncontrollably. They share joints on the beach, trading snippets of poems, intimate secrets, family histories, resentments, and dreams. But with his draft date rapidly approaching, Jonathan wrestles with the question of what it means to be proud of your heritage and loyal to your people, while also feeling love for those outside of your own tribal family. And then that fateful day arrives, the one that lands Jonathan in prison and changes his relationship with the twins forever.

Powerful, important, and timely, Sadness Is a White Bird explores one man’s attempts to find a place for himself, discovering in the process a beautiful, against-the-odds love that flickers like a candle in the darkness of a never-ending conflict.

About the author: Moriel Rothman-Zecher is an American-Israeli writer, spoken-word poet, and activist who served jail time for refusing to enlist in the IDF, the subject of a New York Times op-ed he wrote in 2015. Born in Jerusalem and raised in Yellow Springs, Ohio, he graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in Arabic and political science. He moved back to Jerusalem in 2011, and has been involved with a number of groups working to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. He is a recipient of a 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellowship for Literature. His writings have been published in The New York Times, Haaretz, and elsewhere. Moriel is the associate editor of the anthology Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation and the author of Sadness Is a White Bird. He lives with his wife, Kayla, and their dog, Silly Department. Read more at and follow him on Twitter @Moriel_RZ.

Event Location: 
The Seminary Co-op
5751 S Woodlawn
Chicago, IL 60637