“This is a living and essential book.”
—sam sax, author of Bury It and Madness
A meditation on world invention and collapse, A Flag of No Nation traces the stories of Turkish Jews in the twentieth century, blind colonists in a white ocean, and performers enacting new rituals around a nationless flag. Through forms of storytelling that range from allegory to oral history, Tom Haviv investigates the history of Israel|Palestine and the mythologies of nationalism. A warning against imperfect dreams, and an invitation to imagine something new, A Flag of No Nation reminds us how the act of remembrance can help us re-envision the future.
About the Author
Tom Haviv is the cofounder and creative director of Ayin Press. His debut book of poetry, Flag of No Nation, was published in 2019 by Jewish Currents Press, and is the author of two children’s books, Woven (Somewhere, 2018) & The Porcupine Prince (Somewhere, 2023). He is also the creator of Hamsa Flag Project.
See more of Tom’s work on his website and on Instagram.
Praise for A Flag of No Nation
“Tom Haviv’s relentlessly inventive first collection offers a fresh and moving reckoning with the charged nature of his family’s Levantine-Jewish identity. Weaving a hybrid text out of a richly complex tale, Haviv makes his personal story come to stand for a much larger history, one that is, as he shows here—politically and poetically—re-membered best by being broken open.”
—Peter Cole, author of Hymns & Qualms: New and Selected Poems and Translations
“Tom Haviv’s A Flag of No Nation gives image and language to places and peoples that were not only lost and forgotten, but forced to be forgotten, othered, and shamed. The starting point of the writer’s journey asking his grandmother ‘Where are you from?’ is answered throughout the text beautifully and delicately, giving again and again the opportunity to be in that place where the poem comes from, where the image is caught so wonderfully, where this conversation still continues.”
—Tehila Hakimi, author of Company and We’ll Work Tomorrow
“In this remarkable first collection, we are shown history is built from stories. We learn who tells, who’s told, and how it’s told makes all the difference. A Flag of No Nation refigures or recalls the poet as mythmaker, as archivist and historian, as the living pulse that links these things together through the human breath. In these formally inventive and deeply felt poems, Tom Haviv bears witness through inherited narratives, text, and emails. This is a living and essential book.”
—sam sax, author of Bury It and Madness
“Like the ‘confident acrobat’ he has so gently envisioned, Tom Haviv’s beautiful poetry and art ripple through the pages of this book, opening doors where surprises smile all of a sudden, connecting the most daunting dots of our yearnings. What’s the reason for a flag? To whom belongs this poem? Traveling through imagined landscapes and inherited narratives of loss, Haviv creates a home here, perhaps even a sacred temporary haven, a place for us to land.”
—Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder of Lab/Shul
“I was captivated from the first paragraph of Tom Haviv’s book when he witnesses his storytelling accomplice, transhistorical spirit guide, subject, and grandmother Yvette pour deep time into her waiter’s ear. Huge gratitude to both of them for providing an experience full of geographical landings and historical surfaces where our thoughts and feelings can rest while they share their minutely observant journey through Jewish and Levantine identity in the 20th century. It is truly wonderful when a prismatic work of art girds the reader for strategic action in real life. Thank you Tom and Yvette.”
—Jenny Romaine, theater artist and organizer
“A Flag of No Nation is an artful and tragic, ambitious and generous book. Its enveloping intimacy humbles us as much as it estranges, inviting us to imagine those political possibilities weaving together beneath our very noses.”
—Ben Ratskoff, founder and editor-in-chief of PROTOCOLS
“Tom Haviv takes the beauty, pain, and particularity of his family’s immigration stories and examines them like a precious stone, with each side and angle revealing a different depth of identity, history, contemporary relevance, and questioning. At once sweeping and intimate, Haviv’s words and images linger with vivid color and brilliant sensation on every page, as the poems mingle characters, flags and journeys, chronologies and deep loves between people. Haviv’s work is political as he sensitively brings out a complex allegory at the precise moment when understanding intersectional identities and reimagining togetherness may be the only things that can truly save us.”
—Libby Lenkinski, vice president of New Israel Fund
“A Flag of No Nation is as much architecture as it is verse. Haviv’s poems build up and down the page, like houses being constructed — or perhaps demolished. They invite you in, to learn distractedly. Not as from a litany or a liturgy but wandering and inhabiting a broken library with fragments of different worlds and times, the recent history of the near east, family, migration, and oh so many breaks. He has, in his own way, politicized aesthetics. Not in the trivial way that the poems are about politics — although so many, if certainly not all, are. But in the way that the poetry works on you, pushes and pulls you, stretches where your senses might end. It asks you questions. Not directly. And I suppose not one question — it asks you about memory and time and history, how to record a string of events, why to make a flag, where family stories end and official stories begin. It asks you to ask questions. The poems make demands on you. And the question cannot just linger — you can’t get away that easy once you’ve walked inside.”
—Ajay Singh Chaudhary, executive director of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research
“Inspired by his ancestral story of Sephardi diasporas across empires and nation-states, Haviv has produced a moving and visionary critique of the intractable Israeli/Palestinian conflict. A Flag of No Nation moves from the phantasmagoric to the concrete, from the disturbing blindness of nationalisms to new visions of peace. He makes powerful use of voice, not only through his poetic imagination but also through oral history, in recorded conversations with his grandmother, documented in time and beautifully phrased in verse. He reminds us of the importance of history and family memory in envisioning a different pathway toward inclusivity and equality.”
—Rina Benmayor, professor emerita at California State University, Monterey Bay and author of Romances judeo-españoles de Oriente (Eastern Judeo-Spanish Ballads)
196 Pages | Paperback | 10 x 8.5 inches | ISBN: 978-0-578-54971-2 | e-ISBN: 978-1961814004
Publication Date: December 12, 2019
A Flag of No Nation was published by Jewish Currents Press. The book is now distributed by Ayin Press in partnership with Jewish Currents.
The book features writing on the inspiration behind The Hamsa Flag Project.