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A Novel

Yaara Shehori; Translated from the Hebrew by Todd Hasak-Lowy


Aquarium Download image

ISBN10: 1250829542
ISBN13: 9781250829542

Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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Winner of the Bernstein Prize

Sisters Lili and Dori Ackerman are deaf. Their parents—beautiful, despondent Anna; fearsome and admired Alex—are deaf, too. Alex, a scrap-metal collector and sometime prophet, opposes any attempt to integrate with the hearing; to escape their destructive influence, the girls are educated at home. Deafness is no disability, their father says, but an alternative way of life, preferable by far to that of the strident, hypocritical hearing.

Living in a universe of their own creation, feared by and disdainful of the other children on their block, Lili and Dori grow up semi-feral. Lili writes down everything that happens—just the facts. And Dori, the reader, follows her older sister wherever she goes. United against a hostile and alien world, the girls and their parents watch the hearing like they would fish in an aquarium.

But when the hearing intrude and a devastating secret is revealed, the cracks that begin to form in the sisters’ world will have consequences that span the rest of their lives. Separated from the family that ingrained in them a sense of uniqueness and alienation, Lili and Dori must relearn how to live, and how to tell their own stories.


Praise for Aquarium

“Lyrical, introspective, and unconventional . . . Yaara Shehori is a talented author who has crafted a nuanced, worthy novel. Textured and vivid, Aquarium offers a profound exploration of hearing—both its presence and its absence—and its impact on a family, on society, and on ourselves.”—Gisèle Lewis, Washington Independent Review of Books

"Lyrical . . . Shehori’s novel examines how stories are not only told, but how they are heard, as Lili and Dori fiercely share their observations of the world and how they have allowed their disability to shape their lives. This coming of age story poses questions about family, community and how disabilities are perceived."—TinaMarie Craven, The Ridgefield Press

"A fascinating coming-of-age tale of two Deaf sisters finding their way in a hearing world . . . Both their perspectives are filled with lyrical and evocative passages . . . A powerful story of sisters and broken families."Alma

“Hauntingly surreal . . . Aquarium ultimately offers a fearless translation of the elusiveness of human experience, illuminating those rare moments of being that escape our preconception of beauty, even if they can’t be clearly understood the instant they pass through us.”—Jaclyn Gilbert, Jewish Book Council

"Ambitious, intelligent, and nuanced, Aquarium is a story that interrogates the limits of stories and the words we use to tell them, whether they are made of hand signs, speech sounds, or written letters. The emotional force of Yaara Shehori’s novel turns on what remains unspoken: the fierce attachment of two sisters during childhood and the reverberating consequences of tearing them apart."—Siri Hustvedt, author of Memories of the Future

"Shehori has brought into being a memorable fictional world that asks us to rethink our assumptions about family versus community, nature versus nurture, and how we relate to—and communicate with—one another."Kirkus Reviews

"With thoughtful character studies of each sister, Aquarium interrogates disability, limitations, and storytelling . . . The novel shines in its depiction of the malleable nature of family histories."—Laura Chanoux, Booklist


Read an Excerpt


Lili and Dori. A light head next to a dark one. Curls and braids. Red mixed with brown. Four narrow eyes. The older has a girl’s name and her sister a name they give to boys. At home, they called them Big and Little, a stretched-out...

About the author

Yaara Shehori; Translated from the Hebrew by Todd Hasak-Lowy

Yaara Shehori is an Israeli novelist and poet. She has been an editor of Hebrew literature at Keter Books since 2013. In 2015, Shehori was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Hebrew Literary Works and the Ministry of Culture’s award for upcoming writers. She holds a PhD in Hebrew literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and a fellowship from the University of Iowa International Writing Program. In 2017, Aquarium was recognized with the Bernstein Prize for the best original Hebrew-language novel.

Todd Hasak-Lowy is an American writer and translator, and a professor of creative writing and literature at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the author of The Task of This Translator, a short-story collection; Captives, a novel; a narrative memoir for young adults, Somewhere There Is Still a Sun, cowritten with the Holocaust survivor Michael Gruenbaum; and three books for younger readers. Hasak-Lowy lives in Evanston, Illinois, with his wife and two daughters.

Roni Cnaani

Yaara Shehori

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