Tamar Yellin is an award-winning author of such books as Genizah at the House of Sheper and the short story collection, Kafka in Brontëland and other Stories. Her latest novel, Tales of the Ten Lost Tribes, takes its name from the myth of the ten tribes of Israel who were banished by the Assyrians, then lost in time. The ten chapter titles come directly from the names of the ten tribes: Reuben, Simeon, Dan, etc. Each chapter is a chronological telling of the life of Yellin’s nameless narrator and pro-tagonist. These chapters are so self-contained that they could easily stand as independent short stories. Some have appeared previ-ously in periodicals including Nemonymous Magazine and Zeek Magazine.
The myth of the Ten Tribes of Israel, specifically the concept of being lost, is a theme that runs throughout Yellin’s novel. In essence, the author has taken the macroscopic totality of the Jewish Diaspora and exilic experience and has reverted it to the micro-cosm of a novel. Yellin writes, “But from the stream of people, I sought out those who, for the purposes of kind research, I chose to identify among the lost: that hidden tribe of wanderers and strangers, aliens and misfits, to which I too belonged.”
Yellin’s nameless character is “lost” from the very beginning, yet nuances of humor breathe beneath the sur-faces of Yellin’s tight, exquisite prose like the shorter works of Isaac B. Singer and his novel, Gimpel the Fool. Tales of the Ten Lost Tribes sings like John Updike’s first novel The Poorhouse Fair. After the music is over, the reader will wipe away their tears, allow their hearts a minute to heal, give a grim smile, and turn back to listen to Yellin’s song one more time.
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