I began writing Not So Shy in the midst of a bad flu about a decade ago. Blurred thoughts caused by a high fever threw me back in time to the day we left Israel a few years earlier. My twelve-year-old daughter Shai (yes, I stole her name for the book…) was sprawled on the floor, clinging to the to the leg of the dining room table like her life depended on it. In my feverish state it was me, looking up at rows of suitcases and teary-eyed grandparents.
The high fever was soon gone, but the story was nudging to be written so I gave in. I blamed that high fever for throwing me out of my comfort zone (at the time I was focused solely on picture books, and hadn’t considered writing middle-grade novels), but there was no way back. This was the story of my heart— I needed to write it.
As I began writing, I relived the challenges of acclimating my three kids to our new life in the U.S. I thought I was only the mom in the story, but diving deeper into the writing, I realized I was also that girl. By the age of twelve I myself have moved from Israel to the U.S. and back, twice. (Much like Shai, it was also for the sake of my father’s scientific career)
In many ways, the writing of this book was a journey in self-discovery, but now that the book is out in the world, it is no longer only my story— it belongs to readers of all backgrounds. Some might see themselves reflected in the diverse cast of characters — Jewish Americans, Jewish Israelis (with Ashkenazi or Sephardic roots), Muslim Americans, Korean Americans, and more.
Hopefully all readers will open up to new ideas, see beyond their own experiences and feel the beauty of our diverse world.
I hope you enjoy Shai’s story, and if ever you’re sick, in the feverish state between real and hallucination, I dare you to write your story.