Back in January, I wrote a post about the rights to my novel, Dietland, being sold in Europe. I said I would reveal the countries involved in a future post, but I haven’t done that yet. I will soon, I promise. It’s all very exciting.
Last week I received word that the rights to Dietland have sold outside Europe for the first time. Yes, you read that correctly. Are you ready for this? Dietland is going to be published in Israel. I can’t share any other details right now, since this is all just happening, but it is amazing to think that my words are going to be translated into Hebrew. My maternal grandmother was Jewish, so Jewishness is part of my ethnicity.
I am mentioning this now because since my book is going to be published in Israel, I have to face the fact that my Hebrew first name is pronounced incorrectly. I never really thought of my name as being mispronounced until recently. Should I be embarrassed?
Those of you who are godless heathens (which is probably most of you) won’t know that Sarai is a name from the Old Testament. See, here’s a novel about my foremother:
At some point, God decided that Sarai wasn’t a good enough name for the mother of the Jewish nation, so the name was changed to Sarah. (I got the last laugh, though, because while there are millions of women named Sarah out there, there are very few named Sarai.) In Hebrew, Sarai apparently means “argumentative.”
[I assume you're laughing right now, so I'll give you a minute to catch your breath.]
In Hebrew, Sarai would be pronounced like sa-RYE, but my parents decided to pronounce it sa-RAY. I asked my dad about this recently and he said it’s like ray of light. Awwwww. [I should mention here that I was born in Southern California in the early 1970s and there were a lot of people on drugs then. My parents weren't actually on drugs, but it must have been in the air because, I mean, come on — that's a total hippie story.]
I actually love sa-RAY, so I’m not complaining. I get called sa-RYE a lot and I don’t like it, because it makes me think of rye bread. I love rye bread, but I don’t want my name to sound like it. Almost everyone defaults to sa-RYE if they don’t know how to say my name. The “ai” verb combo doesn’t really exist in English and everyone panics when they see it. The only group of people who get it right are French people, because I guess my name sounds very French. See: Je serai très heureux de vous rencontrer à l’avenir. It’s almost a verb in French. You cannot get more French than that. [Actually, when I lived in France, no one cared about my first name, but they took great interest in my last name. To make a long story short, let me just tell you that Chuck Norris and his TV show Walker, Texas Ranger must have been very popular in France. IT'S A REAL NAME! Yes, yes it is monsieur at the passport desk.]
I actually have a good Sarai-related story from London. I know I’ve told this story before, but I have to tell it again. When I was living in London, I got a teaching job and on my first day, I met my new co-worker and told him my first name and he snarled and said: “Sarai? That’s just a posh version of Sarah.” I love this story so much because that’s the most British thing to say ever ever ever.
Anyway, the point of all this rambling is that I will be embarrassed for Hebrew-speaking people to know that my name is not pronounced correctly, so if anyone in Israel ever wants to talk to me about my book, I will become sa-RYE.
I might be argumentative, but you have to admit that I’m flexible.