Green Bean Books

Q&A with Rinat Primo for Dandelion Snow

1. Where did the idea for this book come from? Did any personal experiences inspire this story?

On the outskirts of my neighbourhood, there used to be an empty field where I would go running every morning. My children would also often come to visit this field with their kindergarten class. One day, I heard that a new neighbourhood was going to be built in its place, which upset me quite a bit. I thought about it during every morning run, imagining how one day I would arrive to find tractors in my beloved field. While running, I came up with the story of kindergarten kids who had to say goodbye to their field, just like I had to say goodbye to mine. I admit that I gave the story a much sweeter ending than what I felt in reality. It was my way of comforting myself. Today, the new neighbourhood is long completed, and I go running in another field, where a new neighbourhood will soon be built.

2. What would you say is the greatest lesson children should take away from this story?

The stories we read and hear as children shape us from within. They’re food for the soul. I don’t think authors need to spell out the morals of their stories. If the story is good, every reader will find their own value and their own individual lesson to take away from it.

3. Is there a Jewish value behind this tale? If so, what is it?

There’s Jewish value in generational continuity. The Jewish people know all too well the necessity of uprooting oneself and spreading one’s seeds throughout the world. Just as the dandelion’s children are the living memory of the lost field, so are we a living memory of our parents and grandparents who were uprooted from their communities around the world.

4. Which Jewish stories, or secular children’s books, did you love as a child?

‘It happened that a certain heathen came to Shammai and said to him, “Convert me on condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot.” Shammai drove him away with the builder’s measuring stick that was in his hand. The man then went to Hillel, who converted him. Hillel said to him: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour.” This is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary – go and learn it.’

As an adult, I can appreciate the humanistic message in the story. As a child, I just liked the image of a man standing on one foot demanding to know the secrets of the universe. I thought it was funny. I’d also like to learn the secrets of the universe while standing on one foot. Can I?

5. Where do you stand on the ‘Own Voices’ debate? For a Jewish story, do you think it’s important to have a Jewish author? Could this story have been written as well by a non-Jewish author?

I relate to this discourse much more from a female perspective. Can a male writer write a female protagonist? Can a female writer write a male protagonist? Can young writers write about adults? Can I, as an adult woman, write about child protagonists? If the answer is yes – and I do believe it is – then it follows that we should not limit creators to write only about the cultural environment they grew up in. And if the resulting creations turn out inaccurate or even embarrassing, well, they can take that as a lesson in humility and writing skill.

6. Can you offer tips or words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

My best advice for writers is to read. Read a lot. Read everything. This is also my advice for parents who ask how to encourage their children to read: read. Read for yourselves. Don’t force yourself, don’t treat it as homework. Reading is fun. Reading is life. Reading is my favourite thing in the world.

7. Do you still grapple with what it means to be Jewish? What does it mean to you?

As a secular Israeli Jew, my connection to Judaism is predominantly cultural. Jewish stories and rituals are deeply ingrained into my life. The Jewish culture, with all its complexities, is what I know – it is home. In other cultures, I am merely a tourist. Honestly, I hardly even know people who aren’t Jewish. As a secular liberal, however, I take great interest (and sometimes concern) in the connection between universal humanistic values, such as attitudes towards women, LGBTQ+ individuals and non-Jewish people, and the values of various Jewish schools of thought.