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Anna’s Dance

“Exquisitely written and memorably shaped, Michele Levy’s subtle, bold novel takes us to places known and unknown, helping us to find ourselves.”


Anna Rossi, the protagonist of the coming-of-age novel, Anna’s Dance: A Balkan Odyssey, is a twenty-three-year-old mostly Jewish-American girl alienated from her roots and fearful of intimacy. On an impromptu journey through the Balkans, an area whose history and culture attracts her as a kind of mirror of her own, she meets others who share with her a past of external prejudice and internal suffering. Forced to confront directly what results when nations suppress their minorities, Anna learns that ugly stereotypes can distort one’s sense of self and heritage, and that anger and frustration can lead to ethno-nationalism and violence.

Set in 1968, when world-wide protests raged against repressive regimes and powerful majorities, Anna’s odyssey highlights antisemitism and the Holocaust in America and the Balkans as it immerses her in the pain of other ethnicities, opens her to love and loss, and helps her find meaning, a purpose, and her own place in the world. In Istanbul’s oldest synagogue, she proudly embraces her Jewish identity.

Steeped in American, Jewish, and Balkan history, Anna’s Dance links the marginalized, among them Jews, African Americans, Armenians, and the various Balkan peoples–while exploring concerns that plague us still, both here at home and globally.

Book Reviews
Michele Levy’s lyrically devised novel is a colorful immersion into both Balkan history and the emotional journey of self-discovery of its young protagonist, whose 1968 wandering through Europe touches on everything from her own Jewish heritage and the darkly violent history of the former Yugoslavia to slavic food, art and the pure and sensual pleasures of youth. The journey of the energetic and insightful Anna Rossi, like the title of this book, dances through several stages of rather complex self-understanding, romantic relationships, and indecisive actions –– all of it carried along by a wonderfully constructed and sometimes dreamy prose style that often implies much more than it says. I found the author’s observations about the geography and people of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia especially intriguing, since that part of the world often gets described with generalities. Levy, however, offers nuanced brush strokes instead of cliches; deft observation instead of memes plucked conveniently from newspaper headlines. This could have easily turned into another backpacker coming-of-age story sprinkled with squishy romantic interludes and youthful clowning. Instead of love with a Eurail Pass, it’s a sensitive portrait of a young woman who wrestles with life’s key questions in an honest and sometimes raw manner. Equally, Levy’s prose is first class, making her one of those rare authors whose sentences are worth reading twice, as in: “The bright white of the napkin matched his arctic smile…” Likewise, some chapters are filled with enough sadness and dark intrigue to match the mythic woes of the old Serbian Kosovo poems that Levy mentions in this rewarding novel.
Gojan Nikolich - Amazon Review

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“Exquisitely written and memorably shaped, Michele Levy’s subtle, bold novel takes us to places known and unknown, helping us to find ourselves.”