headshot of sayed kashua
Palestinian Israel author and screenwriter Sayed Kashua (Photo/Courtesy Cleveland Jewish News)

Palestinian Israeli writer, creator of TV comedy ‘Arab Labor,’ to speak in S.F.

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Acclaimed writer Sayed Kashua, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, will speak at San Francisco State University this month in a talk co-sponsored by the school’s Department of Jewish Studies, the Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford University and the Israel Institute. It will be Kashua’s first time on the SFSU campus.

Born in Tira (about 18 miles north of Tel Aviv) and educated at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Kashua often writes in the Hebrew language. His novels “Dancing Arabs” (2002), “Let It B Morning” (2006) and “Second Person Singular” (2010) have won numerous international prizes and have been translated into several languages.

“Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life,” a collection of interrelated essays on life in modern Jerusalem written between 2006 and 2014, includes his humorous columns from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in which he anecdotally addresses the experience of being Arab in Israel.

He also used humor and satire to explore ignorance and prejudice on both sides of the Israeli-Arab ethnic divide as the screenwriter of two Israeli hit television series, the semi-autobiographical “The Writer” and “Arab Labor.” In 2010, Kashua was given the Freedom of Expression Award at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

Although he devoted much of his adult life trying to tell Israelis (and others) the Palestinian story, he ultimately found the task fruitless and the political situation untenable. Kashua moved to the United States with his wife and children in 2014 as a fellow of the Israel Studies Project at the University of Illinois, then became a visiting professor there.

He is currently a graduate student in comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also recently served as a Hebrew instructor.

An English translation of his fourth and latest novel “Track Changes” is forthcoming in January 2020. It follows an Arab Israeli man as he deals with his memories, his past and his cultural identity.

Kashua will read short excerpts from his work, followed by a conversation with Vered Weiss, an Israel Institute teaching fellow in Jewish studies at SFSU. The event on Tuesday, Oct. 15 will begin at 4 p.m. in SFSU’s Humanities Building, room 587. A reception will follow. jewish.sfsu.edu/events

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s former culture editor.