Ask for a Convertible

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-07-14
  • Publisher: Anchor
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In these connected stories, Danit Brown introduces Osnat Greenberg: a slightly fatalistic, darkly funny, and utterly winning heroine who is struggling to find her place in the world. In the 1980s, Osnat moves with her American father and Israeli mother from Tel Aviv to Michigan. As the perspective shifts among the characters - spanning fifteen years, returning to Israel and then going back again to the Midwest - Osnat tries (and often fails) to belong. Danit Brown gives us an irreverent portrait of a young woman for whom finding a foothold in the world is an obsession, a challenge, and a great adventure.

Author Biography

Danit Brown holds an MFA in fiction from Indiana University. Her stories have appeared in many literary journals, including Story, Glimmer Train, StoryQuarterly, and One Story. She lives in Michigan with her family.

From the Hardcover edition.


When Osnat's grandmother came to visit, she brought Osnat underwear and socks, bananas and eggs fresh from thelool. "Eat a banana," she said. "Come on. Eat a banana. Eat it. Eat a banana. Eat it. Eat a banana. Eat a banana. Eat it. Eat a banana." She was crazy. Osnat's parents knew she was crazy, but they yelled at her anyway: "Quit it with the bananas. She doesn't want a banana." Osnat's grandmother smiled. Her eyes were blue, but her skin was brown and shriveled. She grabbed Osnat's head and kissed the top of it over and over: "Muah muah muah muah muah. Come on. Eat a banana. Eat it. Eat a banana. Eat a banana."

The evening before their flight, there was a big family dinner with lots of yellow food: potatoes,bourekas, shkedei marak.

"Are you wearing your yellow socks?" Osnat's grandmother asked Osnat. Osnat's grandmother believed yellow was a good color for traveling, and had knitted the socks herself. They were thick and made Osnat's shoes feel too tight, but when she started to take them off, her mother said, "Don't. Don't get her started." For emphasis, she shook the can of baby corn she was draining. Osnat hated baby corn, but her mother said it kept the salad from being too green.

In the next room, Osnat's aunt was setting the table with plastic yellow plates. When she came in for the silverware, Osnat's mother told her, "I can feel it. I'm going to have to teach Hebrew at some damn school for the rest of my life."

"It's America," Osnat's aunt said. "You'll be rich and won't have to work at all."

"But I like working."

"Not me," Osnat said. "I wish it could always be vacation."

The two women turned and looked at her. "Where's your grandmother?" her aunt asked.

Out in the living room, Osnat's grandmother was watching the news in Arabic. She didn't know Arabic, but she liked the announcer's mustache. She wrapped her arms around Osnat and whispered, "When you come back, find yourself a boyfriend with a mustache like that." The tops of her hands were crisscrossed with blue veins. The palms were warm and papery.

"We're not coming back," Osnat told her.

Her grandmother sighed. "No," she said. "I guess you aren't. This is why you should never marry Americans." Later, when she saw the cheesecake meant for dessert, she said, "This is beige, not yellow." Osnat's mother inhaled sharply. Osnat's grandmother smiled. "Just kidding." She cut herself a big slice. "This isn't a big deal," she said. "I left my mother and my sisters when I was nineteen, you know. And look at me now. You worry that I'll forget to turn off the gas, but I always remember."

"Or else someone finds you lying on the floor," Osnat's aunt said.

"Enough," Osnat's mother said. "She has a pilot light now."

"Come on," Osnat's grandmother said, pushing the cheesecake toward Osnat. "Have a piece of cake. It's delicious. Have some. Have a piece. Have a piece of cake."

At the airport, the air smelled like toilet bowl cleaner and sweat, and the fluorescent lights made people's skin look gray. At the foot of the escalators that led to the departure gates, Osnat's aunt hugged Osnat's mother so tightly her fingertips turned white.

On the plane, Osnat watched Tel Aviv's lights flickering below them. From the air, the ground looked nothing like the maps of Israel they'd learned to draw in school: the coastal plain with a bump for Haifa; the desert in the south; to the east, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, connected by a straight line, each border carefully labeled: Lebanon. Syria. Jordan. Egypt. The word for leaving Israel and not coming back isyerida, descent. It's such a small country. Every b

Excerpted from Ask for a Convertible by Danit Brown
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