Dance of the Banished Reviews

School Library Journal

DanceOfTheBanished_HR_RGB“Gr 8 Up–Skrypuch continues to tell the stories of young refugees—as in The Hunger (2002), Nobody’s Child (2003, both Dundrun), and Daughter of War (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008)—in her latest historical novel. Set between 1913 and 1917, it features two Alevi Kurd teenagers in Anatolia as World War I breaks out and Turkey begins the Armenian Genocide. Ali emigrates before the war begins and gives his girlfriend, Zeynep, a journal to write in for when they meet again. While in Canada, he is locked up in an internment camp because of his nationality, though he does not identify as Turkish. Meanwhile, Zeynep is witness to the genocide of her neighbors and is called to help. The author sheds light on an often overlooked piece of history….[T]he setting is fascinating, the research is thorough, and the story is made all the more interesting due to current events in the region. The author’s note is full of source notes and historical details…In a world that continues to be violent, readers may find solace in the novel’s joyful ending. VERDICT Dance of the Banished is absolutely school assignment worthy, and a good book for teens who enjoy historical fiction.”
—Lisa Nowlain, Darien Library, CT

Booklist

“Ali and his fiancée, Zeynep, are Anatolian Alevi Kurds facing the hardships imposed by Turkish revolutionary forces. Ali preemptively immigrates to Kapuskasing, Ontario, but is identified as an enemy alien and imprisoned in an internment camp. Zeynep’s journey to find her future with Ali takes her from 1914 to 1916, from Harput, Anatolia, to Kars, Russia, and eventually to Brantford, Ontario, where she expects Ali to be gainfully employed and living on Darling Street. Skrypuch tells their story, which is based on true events, through descriptive journal passages in which the characters address each other with courage and longing. Eventually, Zeynep’s eyewitness chronicle is discovered by the American consul and used as testimony against war crimes. The author’s somber rendering of WWI atrocities against Armenians is reminiscent of fellow Canadian author Deborah Ellis’ caring attention to modern-day Afghan refugees and Middle Eastern youth living in conflict. There are many lessons for young readers in this story of hope and fear, love and determination, and the universal significance of bearing witness.”
—Gail Bush

Kirkus Reviews

“World War I separates a betrothed Anatolian couple—leaving one to witness the Armenian genocide and sending the other to a prison camp…in Canada. Cast as letters and journal entries, the double narrative records the experiences of Zeynep, a villager transplanted to the ‘mighty city of Harput,’ and Ali, who is swept up with other supposed enemy aliens and shipped to a remote camp in central Ontario before he can send for Zeynep. Neither is of Turkish descent: They are Kurds practicing the ancient, indigenous Alevi faith. These distinctions make no difference to Canadian authorities in Ali’s case, but they do give Zeynep some protection as she records a rising tide of atrocities committed against her Armenian (Christian) friends and neighbors…An eye-opening exposé of historical outrages committed in two countries, with intriguing glimpses of a minority group that is not well-known in the Americas.”

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VOYA

“Canadian author Skrypuch, who has written several other well-received historical novels about World War I and the Armenian Genocide, has created an absorbing glimpse into a dark period in world history and the human consequences of war. Most of the novel is told through letters that Zeynep writes (but does not send) to Ali; as she becomes involved in protecting the Armenian people, these letters become an eye-witness account to the atrocities being committed against them. Ali, picked up as a Turk enemy alien (he and Zeynep are actually Alevi Kurds) and sent to the Kapuskasing prison internment camp, tells less of the story, including a subplot about his involvement with a young Cree woman who wants to become a nurse.

…The history comes alive, particularly in Zeynep’s chapters, and fans of historical or war novels, who may not know much about the Canadian internment camps or the Armenian Genocide, will surely be engaged enough to do further research (this reviewer did).”

CM Magazine

“…The inside covers contain maps detailing the geography of both Zeynep and Ali’s stories, and the ‘Author’s Note’ provides considerable background on the Alevi Kurds; both offer a better sense of the journeys undertaken by both main characters and of their cultural context…

Dance of the Banished is definitely a worthwhile acquisition for middle and high school library collections; it will complement other works focusing on the story of young people affected by war-time, including The Diary of Anne Frank, provide a very accessible perspective on life in one of Canada’s First World War Internment Camps, as well as introducing readers to the story of the Armenian genocide, an event with which many young Canadians might not be familiar.

Highly Recommended.

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National Reading Campaign

“…Zeynep, fierce and bold, and Ali, caring and principled, live in the same village in Anatolia and plan to marry. Unexpectedly, Ali is sent to Canada and Zeynep is left behind. Each writes in a journal for the other, but as war comes to both countries it is unlikely their words will ever be shared. Still, they keep on. Zeynep writes an eyewitness account of the genocide from the point of view of the Alevi Kurds, telling a little known side of this tragic story. Ali, in turn, gives an accounting of life in an internment camp in, surprisingly, Kapuskasing. For each, the journal entries are a coping mechanism, a way to bear witness to the atrocities of war and ultimately, to bring justice.

Skrypuch’s compelling characters give an authentic voice to this well researched story. It is definitely a book for adults as well as teens. And although it is a story of war it includes moments of great joy, making it much more than a tragedy…”
—Penny Draper

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“It is June 1913, when Ali breaks the news to his fiancée Zeynep that he will be leaving their Anatolian village to go to Canada. Once there, he hopes to finally be able to save enough money to pay for her passage, and to build a new life for them there. But the world is on the brink of war and everything soon changes. The two record the events that they both witness in journal entries to each other, even though they both fear that they will never see one another again.

Alternating between these two sets of journal entries, readers learn Zeynep’s story of going to live and work with Christian missionaries. As World War I looms, she witnesses first-hand the horrors of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Young Turks who now control the government. Conditions for her and the other Alevi Kurds are only marginally better, but that is small consolation as she watches Armenian men, women and children being cruelly treated and marched to their deaths. Meanwhile, in Canada, Ali and the other Alevi Kurds who had tried to settle in Brantford, Ontario, are falsely accused of a crime and sent to an internment camp in northern Ontario. As these two separate stories unfold, a vivid and devastating picture unfolds.

This latest work is an outstanding testament to Skrypuch’s mastery as a writer of historical fiction for young readers. She has created forthright and dramatic accounts of two little-known events from that time period, inviting readers of all ages to try to understand the depth of suffering that these groups have experienced. She has put a profoundly human face on the horrors of war while also creating an insightful portrait of the Alevi Kurds. Zeynep and Ali are both forced to mature very quickly, and their development is convincing. Skrypuch skillfully captures their voices, their longing, their heartbreak and their courage.”
—Lisa Doucet

Smithsonian BookDragon

“…Although the story is fictional, “it is based on real historical events,” award-winning Canadian author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch writes in her ending “Author’s Note.” What happens to the lovers, their families, their homeland, demands and deserves far more attention. Both Zeynap and Ali are Alevi Kurds, an ethnic minority about which is little known in the West. They are Kurdish, not Turkish; they are not Muslim, they are Alevi, “a 6,000 year-old religion that originated in Anatolia. Over the centuries Alevism has incorporated aspects of other religions,” Skrypuch explains.

Already the author of five titles “set during the Armenian Genocide,” Skrypuch elucidates how “in all that writing and research, [she] completely missed an outstanding instance of bravery: the rescue of 40,000 Armenians by the Alevi Kurds of the Dersim Mountains.” Five years earlier, Skrypuch learned about a hundred “enemy aliens” living in her hometown of Brantford, Ontario, who were rounded up in the middle of the night on false charges, jailed, and sent to prison camps.

“These men were victims of shameful wartime hysteria directed at foreigners, yet they had come to Canada because of its reputation for freedom and tolerance.” Listed as Turkish, the men turned out to be Alevi Kurds. And so Skrypuch’s Dance began. The result is an eye-opening, significant literary and historical gift to readers, young and old.”

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The Calgary Herald

“Based on true events, this story takes place in Anatolia and Canada in 1914, during the break-out of the First World War. When Ali moves to Canada to secure a better life for himself and Zeynep, they communicate by journals. It’s a love story filled with tragedy when Ali is forced into a Canadian internment camp, and Zeynep faces horrors as the Ottoman Army marches through her villages. This moving book will enlighten and appeal to readers ages 12 to adult.”

Resource Links

“Dance of the Banished is the story of Ali and Zeynep, two Anatolian (Turkey in the modern day) teenagers. Ali immigrates to Canada just prior to World War I and Zeynep, feeling abandoned at first, ultimately decides to embark on a journey to reunite with Ali. Parts one, three and five of this story are told through Zeynep’s written letters that are infused with her love for Ali: ‘[every time I take a breath I think of you. Every time my heart beats, I think of you’ (54)…[T]he historical details that make this story interesting cannot be overlooked. Parts two, four, and six of this story relate Ali’s experience as he immigrates to Canada. Initially, Ali does have a job, but as war breaks out he is branded ‘Turkish’ and interned at a camp in Kapuskasing as an enemy of Canada. Eventually, Ali and Zenynep are reunited, but not before each experience the hysteria of war and discover their own inner strength and will to survive.

Skrypuch’s historical research is turned into a story that explores, yet again, an often overlooked aspect of Canadian history…a valuable message about tolerance.”

CanLit for LittleCanadians

Dance of the Banished is an old tale.  It’s the familiar love story in which two young people are separated, here by family, distance and war.  But, sadly, it’s also the story of prejudice, fear, and injustice, and the subsequent torment that intensifies that separation.  Dance of the Banished may be an old story in its foundations, but its context is wholly unique, expertly researched and penned by award-winning author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch…By creating legitimate characters in her fiction who bring varied and personal perspectives to the situations experienced and who speak through their questions and confusions and convictions, Marsha Skrypuch can tell the whole story, not just the public one….And we are grateful for that opportunity and bold honesty.”

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A Year of Books

“Similar to this author’s previous novels, this story wove together history and a compelling story of injustice, hope and tenacity to survive in terrible conditions…Both Ali and Zeynep show incredible bravery and compassion as they help others avoid persecution. The author shared that while the book is fiction, ‘every single thing in my book happened’. This book is important to read and as Zeynep says, ‘what I have witnessed is evidence of a terrible crime and the world must know about it, because, he says, that what we forget, we are bound to repeat.’

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Urve Tamberg

“…Meticulously researched and sensitively written…In her nineteenth book, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch again gives a revealing and compassionate voice to an under-represented group of people, and shines a light on little-known events in history. Writing about historical injustices for young adults requires a solid grip of the events, sensitivity, and the ability to juggle multiple perspectives in order to create a compelling story that not only keeps us turning the pages, but also brings forward truths that may have been forgotten or buried. Dance of the Banished enlightens us about the plight of the Alevi Kurds during World War I, saddens us as we find out about the massacre of the Armenians, and maybe even embarrasses us as we discover how ‘foreigners’ were treated in Ontario. Her characters are human, and multifaceted, and make us think about how we would react in times of great stress if our homeland, families, or loved ones were in danger. The answers are never easy, and Marsha does not shy away from difficult and heart-wrenching choices.”

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