Hila Amit

 

The award-winning author and educator Hila Amit was born in Israel in 1985 to a Jewish family with Iranian-Syrian roots. After studying creative writing at Tel Aviv University, Amit took a PhD in the field of Gender Studies at SOAS, University of London. Hila Amit’s fiction has been published in a range of literary journals, including Lilith, Jalta, Emrys Journal, Lalitamba, The Sycamore Review, and The Washington Square Review.

Amit’s story “The Kinneret” was recently selected for the Sue Lile Inman Fiction Prize. She has been awarded fellowships from The Vermont Studio Center and the McDowell Colony. Her short story collection, Moving On From Bliss (Tel-Aviv: Am Oved, 2016), a recipient of the Israeli Ministry of Culture Prize for Debut Authors, was recently selected as one of the 10 best literary works in Hebrew for the years 2010-2020. Her non-fiction book, A Queer Way Out: The Politics of Queer Emigration from Israel (Albany: SUNY, 2018) was awarded the AMEWS (Association of Middle East Women's Studies) Book Award.

In 2014, Amit established the International Hebrew School, a vehicle for advancing Hebrew learning  by way of a queer, feministic, and pluralistic approach. Her Hebrew learning book, Hebrew For All (ן) was published in English and German. She is the co-founder of “Anu אנו نحن: Jews and Arabs Writing in Berlin”, and curates literary events bringing together Jews and non-Jews with a shared Middle Eastern heritage.

Title: The Lower City

Novel

Publisher: Am Oved

Year: 2022

220 pp.

 

Translation rights: World

Audio visual rights: World

Translations: Partial English and German  translations and long synopsis

 

In this debut full length novel (TK) by Hila Amit, the lives of Eliad, Ibrahim, and Miriam are inexorably drawn together by two forceful but opposing powers— passion and societal limitations. Eliad, a Jew from suburbia, drifts from one job to another, full of angst and unresolved anger with parents—as a youth, they first denied, then rejected, his sexual orientation. Years have passed, but the pain and its consequences still cast a pall over his life.

 

Ibrahim, born into a wealthy and  supportive Arab family, must leave Haifa to fulfil his musical talent—and give his homosexuality free rein. Despite their love for him, his parents will not—cannot—allow for this. The Arab community of Haifa’s Lower City are not yet ready for this.

 

And then there is Miriam, a social worker also from the Lower City, who must hide her sexual desire and preferences, from her mother, her sister, and everyone close to her. In this world of  deception, she gives birth to a daughter and lives the life of—as it seems from the outside—a normal family.

 

Across the years, a strong bond emerges between the three protagonists of this daring novel, a friendship and mutual appreciation that surpasses the limiting influence of gender, religion, and society. It’s a ground-breaking bond; but it is also one that can only exist in secret—as though nourished in a different city, an invisible one. There’s no way of knowing if their friendship can ever see the light of day, whether it will endure or disintegrate.

 

Literary critic Nissim Calderon cited Moving on from Bliss  Amit’s previous collection of short stories, as one of the ten best books published in Israel in the last decade; with her new book, she creates a unique and unorthodox novel.

Critical Praise

An original and daring novel, its exceptionality evoking emotion and thought…

The novel underlines a simple truth: cleaving to a romantic choice is not always the glorious victory of the "I". Sometimes, when this is given in a traditional social structure, the price of romantic autonomy can be high…

Amit sets this complexity at the intersection of sexual orientation and ethnicity…

The bustling drama, contrasting the romantic expectations of a Jew and an Arab, unfolds in a novel steeped in tension. There is never a dull moment in it.

Omri Herzog, Haaretz

The Lower City, Hila Amit’s second novel…is faithful to the truth. She depicts with honesty the difficulties experienced by gays and lesbians in Israel’s Arab sector—and not just there. Amit crafts a full portrait of her three principal characters (Ibrahim, Mariam, and Elad). The reader feels her love for each of them, and the compassion that she believes they deserve .

Maya Levin, L’Isha