Our Lives Are But Stories explores the crucial role of personal
storytelling in the lives of a unique generation of women -- Jewish
women who left the Muslim country of Tunisia to settle in the newly
created Israeli state. To this day, the older generation of
Tunisian Israelis continues to rely on storytelling as a form of
education, entertainment, and socialization. But for women this art
has taken on new dimensions, especially as they seek to impart
their values to the young. Here Esther Schely-Newman expertly
interweaves the personal accounts of the private lives of four
Tunisian-Israeli women to analyze the rich complexities of
communication. She considers how various approaches to narration
reflect storytelling as a cultural phenomenon and highlights the
need to understand stories in the contexts in which they are told.
The four narrators grew up in a culture in which women's stories
were confined to the private sphere, were usually told to other
women, and were supposedly fiction -- or at least metaphors masking
their real lives. Forced migration to farming communities in Israel
and the shock of being uprooted created new identities for women
and new outlets for storytelling. Women narrators increasingly
began to tell more openly of their personal lives. Schely-Newman
organizes her narrators' accounts by the themes of childhood,
marriage, motherhood, immigration, and old age and considers a wide
range of factors that shape the narration, including audience,
intent, choice of language, and Jewish-Muslim culture. The result
is a fascinating blend of analysis, narration, and history.
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