Arabic for Beginners

Ariela Freedman

March 2017


When Hannah accompanies her husband and small children to Jerusalem for the year, she becomes fascinated with a group of expat women at her son’s daycare, as well as a young Palestinian woman named Jenna. As she grows close to Jenna, she starts to question her own marriage and her relationship to Israel. A novel of domestic and political ambivalence, Arabic for Beginners is about marriage, motherhood, friendship, nation, and the complicated ways we think of home.


Ariela Freedman was born in Brooklyn and has lived in Jerusalem, New York, Calgary, London, and Montreal. Her reviews and poems have appeared in Vallum, carte blanche, The Cincinnati Review and other publications, and she was selected to participate in the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s 2014 Mentorship Program. She has a Ph.D. from New York University and teaches literature at Concordia’s Liberal Arts College in Montreal, where she lives with her husband and two sons. Arabic for Beginners, her first novel, was shortlisted for the QWF First Book Prize and named one of Quill & Quire's Best Books of 2017.

“Freedman brilliantly captures the existential and alienated state that mothers of young children inhabit. Freedman's work is reminiscent of Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy.” —Heather O’Neill, author of Lullabies for Little Criminals

"Arabic for Beginners brings into sharp relief a young mother’s sabbatical year in Jerusalem in the era of the Gaza war. This is a brave, intelligent and impressive literary debut.” —Elaine Kalman Naves, author of The Book of Faith

“This account of a Canadian family's year in Israel is a study of tensions both national and interpersonal, and of the reasons relationships survive or fade away. Freedman's subtle, graceful prose spans the large and the small, the wondrous and the quotidian, as it explores the question of how certain places—and certain people—come to feel like home.” – Abigail Deutsch, winner, Shattuck Prize for Criticism

$18.95 | ISBN: 9781988130330

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$ 8.95 | ISBN: 9781988130354

$ 8.95 | ISBN: 9781988130361

What they say

The Globe and Mail's Jade Colbert includes Arabic for Beginners in her June 10, 2017 column, saying it's a "fine début novel."

Mark Sampson in Quill and Quire (June, 2017) describes Ariela Freedman as "an exceptionally good writer" -- and the italics are in the original.


Shelley Pomerance thinks this is "a superb novel" -- Montréal Centre-ville, June 2017.

Here's what Claire Holden Rothman has to say about Ariela Freedman's novel Arabic for Beginners in the new Montreal Review of Books!
Ariela Freedman's "book is a nuanced and penetrating exploration of life in Israel today. Billed on its cover as a novel, Arabic for Beginners reads more like a memoir than fiction. But whatever the genre, it’s well worth reading." -- Claire Holden Rothman



"The sky was a deep aching blue, and the leaves of the olive trees glittered green and silver. It was quiet. Noor squirmed to be let down and ran ahead of us, looking over her shoulder and laughing as if she was getting away with something.
       Two hundred years.          
       Jenna took a long contemplative drag of her cigarette and said, looking over the mountains, “You know, when the end of days comes, the blood is going to be up to here”—she swiped a hand across the jeweled denim of her calf." 



Ariela Freedman's wonderful first novel, Arabic for Beginners named one of Quill & Quire's Best Books of 2017. Congratulations, Ariela! "In Arabic for Beginners – her affecting, polished, and deeply confident debut novel – Ariela Freedman presents the Middle East conflict as we’ve rarely seen it, through the eyes of an ambivalent wife and mother. Freedman’s prose is so fluid and flawless that I felt I could trust her, paragraph after paragraph, to take me wherever she wanted to go." – Mark Sampson

LLP authors Ariela Freedman and Elaine Kalman Naves are featured on an AELAQ Inside the Frozen Mammoth podcast!

April 6, 2017, 7-8:30 p.m. Montreal author Ariela Freedman's first novel, Arabic for Beginners, is launched at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly. Free admission. Refreshments. We look forward to welcoming you.




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