| TOKYO, Sept 19
TOKYO, Sept 19 Yael, Avishag and Lea grow up
together in a remote Israeli town, graduating to military
service in the Israeli army, where they come of age amidst a mix
of the routine and tension that comes from living with the
constant possibility of danger.
"The People of Forever are Not Afraid," Shani Boianjiu's
debut novel, is based partly on her own experiences in the
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), but the young author feels that it
was leaving her native land to study abroad that ultimately
freed her to write.
"I think this book could not have been written had I not
lived someplace else besides Israel - I was in the U.S. for
quite some time," Boianjiu, 25, said in a telephone interview.
"To me, it was just completely normal to assume that you
could go about your regular day but then one day something might
happen - missiles would start falling. I'd never even thought
about it as something that wasn't normal."
A rapid transition from her own years of compulsory military
service to university life in the United States left Boianjiu
without time to reflect on her army experience, where she
trained other soldiers in marksmanship - a situation that
eventually led her to write the linked stories of the novel.
"I'm forever fascinated by the kind of story that hasn't
been written yet," she said. "So I like finding fringe
characters, immigrants, people that live in parts of Israel that
are not so commonly portrayed."
Her three heroines gossip, fight boredom and try to maintain
their friendship even as they come of age in the military, an
environment that Boianjiu said came as a bit of a shock.
"It's surprising for a lot of women in high school who are
used to competing with guys on a level field and when you're
drafted all of a sudden the opportunities that you have are
reduced drastically because you're a girl," she said.
"I guess I just wanted to show how people can be individuals
while at the same time not being individuals so much in that
Though setting the story in the armed forces means aspects
of the overall regional political situation become an inevitable
part of things, Boianjiu is adamant that her book should be
looked at as a piece of writing first, not a statement on Israel
or the Middle East.
In fact, she said she felt that Israel and its people bear a
symbolic weight assigned them by the rest of the world - a
situation that she felt turned people into representations of
something other than people, and frustrating.
"One of the things I found interesting in the response from
people is that every literary choice that I made was looked at
in the light of, 'of course she chose this because it's
representative of a land where blah blah blah'," she said.
"Whereas I made literary choices just the way every other
writer does, because when I sat down to write the story that's
the way I imagined events unfolding."
She hopes the real message of her book is universal.
"It's human experience, shared by a lot of women in the IDF,
that I was trying to render," she said.
"Of course, there are some lines that have to deal with the
situation in Israel because that's just part of our lives, but
it's not the only message. I actually think... a lot of it has
to do with the experience of being female, wherever you are."
(Reporting by Elaine Lies, editing by Paul Casciato)