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Archive for the ‘Dance of the Banished’ Category

Dance of the Banished is “a dynamic and compelling story” says Worlds of Words

Posted on May 10th, 2017 by pajamapress

DanceOfTheBanished_websiteDance of the Banished is based on true accounts about Alevi Kurds who were victims of war in Anatolia and the Canadian government’s internment camps in Ontario during World War I. The novel sheds light on the subtleties of cultural groups within geographical regions and their fate at the hands of the more powerful….

A dynamic and compelling story with likeable and realistic characters, this fictionalized narrative about how war often makes no distinctions between cultural groups will appeal to middle and secondary readers interested in history, romance, and how political movements on an international scale often wreak havoc at the local and individual levels. A deeply engaging plot that addresses many of the nuances of World War I, this book will make a great companion to Sanders’ series, The Rachel Trilogy, as well as Between Shades of Gray (Ruta Sepetys, 2012), which also address the concepts of movement, transitions, and how politics disrupt individual lives….”
—Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati

Click here to read the full review

The Semah: ritual movement for International Dance Day

Posted on April 29th, 2016 by pajamapress


British Columbia artist Pascal Milelli created an illustration of a couple dancing the semah for the cover of Dance of the Banished.

International Dance Day is a yearly event intended to celebrate dance as a universal art form that brings people together across cultural, political and ethnic barriers as a shared language. We’re celebrating today by giving centre stage to the semah, the traditional ritual-dance of the Alevi-Baktaşi people that is still flourishing today.

Both of the main characters in Dance of the Banished are Alevi, and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch did a lot of research so she could depict these little-known people and their customs accurately. In her Author’s Note she writes that Alevism is “a 6000-year-old religion that originated in Anatolia. Over the centuries Alevism has incorporated aspects of other religions. For example, Alevis consider Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammed, to be divine. Alevis avoid mosques and do not pray five times a day. They consider women equal to men.” (229)

The semah is the key form of worship among the Alevi. It is a twirling dance where men and women dance together but never touch. The semah’s style can vary widely depending on where it is performed, but its movements are always an expression of faith that symbolism the relationship between God, the Universe and Humanity; the rotation of planets; the progression of time and change; Ali’s ascension into Heaven; and the flight of cranes. It is always accompanied by a devout musician, often the community’s dede (spiritual leader), playing the bağlama (also called the saz), an instrument like a long-necked lute, but the music’s rhythm and characteristics also vary with community and region.

The dance is commonly understood to have three parts. The ağırlama, the first stage of the dance, is characterized but slow movements; the yürütme, when the dance becomes more lively and the dancers begin to move around in a circle while making swooping arm gestures, and finally the yeldirme, the fastest and most difficult part of the dance.

In 2010 the semah was registered on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. There are several organizations in and outside of Turkey that work to protect and preserve this ritual-dance for future generations of Alevi, including offering semah training courses to Alevi youth and instruction in the bağlama for young men.

You can learn more about the semah and the Alevi people in Dance of the Banished by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, or by checking out the links below.

Learn More:
Semah, Alevi-Bektaşi Ritual
Semah, Alevi-Bektaşi Ritual (UNESCO)
Re-Imagining Identity: The Transformation of the Alevi Semah by Ayhan Erol

About the Artist

Pascal Milelli is an artist and painter based in British Columbia. He has contributed his talents to a variety of projects worldwide, including tea packaging in Holland, videogame slipcovers in England and book jackets. Perhaps his most recognizable work is the original cover art for Deborah Ellis‘ Breadwinner trilogy. Pascal is also the award-winning author of three children’s picture books. Click here to learn more about Pascal and view his portfolio.

Dance of the Banished a USBBY Outstanding International Book

Posted on January 9th, 2016 by pajamapress

DanceOfTheBanished_websiteDance of the Banished by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has been selected as an Outstanding International Book by the United States Board on Books for Young People for 2016. This is a high honour given to a shortlist of books first published outside of the United States that are “deemed most outstanding of those published during the calendar year.” (USBBY website). These books:

  • Represent the best of children´s literature from other countries
  • Introduce American readers to outstanding authors and illustrators from other countries
  • Help American children see the world from other points of view
  • Provide a perspective or address a topic otherwise missing from children´s literature in the U.S.
  • Exhibit a distinct cultural flavor
  • Are accessible to American readers.

Dance of the Banished is also the winner of the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, a White Ravens Selection, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and a Best Books for Kids & Teens selection.

Dance of the Banished wins the Geoffrey Bilson Award

Posted on November 19th, 2015 by pajamapress

DanceOfTheBanished_websitePajama Press is honoured to celebrate a win for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People for the second year in a row. Dance of the Banished by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch received the award on November 18th at the Canadian Children’s Literature Awards Gala at the Carlu in Toronto.

“In Canada we are writing fantastic historical fiction for kids,” Skrypuch said, speaking in particular to her fellow finalists Patrick Bowman (Arrow Through the Axes, Ronsdale Press) and Caroline Pignat (The Gospel Truth, Red Deer Press and Unspeakable, Razorbill Canada).

This is not the first award for Skrypuch, who has written more than a dozen historical picture books, chapter books, and juvenile and young adult novels. In these books. as in Dance of the Banished, Skrypuch employed her exceptional research skills to bring to light aspects of history that are little known or understood.

A second Pajama Press title was also a finalist for an award at the gala. A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison was shortlisted for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for the most distinguished English-language Canadian children’s book of the year. This picture book biography, co-written by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson and illustrated with Ted Harrison’s own art, details the artist’s life from his childhood in an English coal mining town to his final home in British Columbia. It recently won the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award and is nominated for several more, including the Forest of Reading Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award. A Brush Full of Colour is published under the Ann Featherstone imprint.

Pajama Press extends warm congratulations to our talented authors, and appreciation to the TD Bank Group and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre for their administration of these awards.

Dance of the Banished a 2015 White Ravens Selection

Posted on October 5th, 2015 by pajamapress

Dance of the Banished, a WWI novel by Marsha Forchuk SkrypuchThe International Youth Library has named Dance of the Banished by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch a 2015 White Ravens Selection. The White Ravens Catalogue, a list of international children’s books considered especially noteworthy by the IYL’s language specialists, is compiled annually and distributed at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Noteworthiness is determined based on the books’ “universal themes and/or their exceptional and often innovative artistic literary style and design.” (

Here is what the IYL says about Dance of the Banished:

“Renowned Ukrainian-Canadian author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has written a number of books about Canadian internment camps. Her latest YA novel again returns to this little-known topic. Set in Anatolia and Canada from 1913 to 1917, the story follows a teenage couple who are forced to go their separate ways until they are finally reunited years later. At the beginning of World War I, Ali seizes the opportunity to seek work in Canada, but is soon thrown into an internment camp for Enemy Aliens. Zeynep is left behind in their Anatolian home village, where Christian Armenians and Alevi Kurds – both minority groups within the Ottoman Empire – live peacefully side by side. When the country is shaken by revolution and war, the young Alevi girl is determined to do her utmost to save her friends from the Armenian Genocide. Told in diary form and letters from two points of view, this story recounts the horrors of World War I, but also documents people’s great compassion and courage in dangerous times. (Age: 14+)”

Dance of the Banished Nominated for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People

Posted on September 10th, 2015 by pajamapress

DanceOfTheBanished_websitePajama Press is pleased to announce that Dance of the Banished by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has been shortlisted for the 2015 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.

This Young Adult novel, set in Canada and Anatolia during World War I, uses a compelling love story to explore two difficult and significant historical events: the internment of so-called enemy aliens in Canada, and the Armenian Genocide. Skrypuch, the granddaughter of a World War I internee, conducted extensive research into history that had not been brought to light in 100 years.

Ali and Zeynep, the novel’s protagonists, are betrothed Anatolian teenagers caught by circumstances that threaten to separate them forever. While Ali has found passage to a better life in Canada, war breaks out in 1914; he is declared an enemy alien and sent to an internment camp. Meanwhile, left behind in a country plunged into war and revolution, Zeynep is determined to stay alive and—despite the impossible odds—cross a continent and an ocean to find Ali again. First, though, she must find a way to save her Christian Armenian neighbours from the horrors of the Armenian Genocide.

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the multi-award winning author of more than a dozen historical picture books, chapter books, and juvenile and young adult novels, including three other novels about the Armenian genocide: The Hunger, Nobody’s Child, and Daughter of War. Her first work of narrative non-fiction, Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War, won the Red Cedar Information Book Award, was an OLA Red Maple Honour Book, and was nominated for the Hamilton Literary Award. It was followed in 2012 by One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way, winner of the 2014 OLA Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award. In 2008, in recognition of her outstanding achievement in the development of the culture of Ukraine, Marsha was awarded the Order of Princess Olha, which was bestowed upon her personally by the president of Ukraine. Marsha lives in Brantford, Ontario.

The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People is administered annually by the TD Bank Group and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Established in memory of children’s author and historian Geoffrey Bilson, it awards $5,000.00 to the Canadian author of an outstanding work of historical fiction for children or young adults. The winner will be announced at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards Gala in Toronto on November 18th.

Dance of the Banished is a “gift to readers, young and old.”—Smithsonian BookDragon

Posted on August 26th, 2015 by pajamapress

Dance of the Banished, a WWI novel by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch“…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.”

Click here to read the full review.

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch honoured by Armenian Prelacy

Posted on May 28th, 2015 by pajamapress

Pajama Press author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch was honoured on May 22, 2015, by the Armenian Prelacy of Canada. Among Skrypuch’s many books for children and teens are six that are set during or after the Armenian Genocide, an event whose centennial anniversary is being marked this year.


Above: Bishop Meghrig Parikian, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, Father Keghart Kosbakian of Cambridge

DanceOfTheBanished_HR_RGBIn 2014 Pajama Press published Skrypuch’s YA novel Dance of the Banished, which is set in Canada and Anatolia during World War I. In it Zeynep, a teenaged Alevi Kurd, is a witness to the Armenian Genocide and resolves to save as many of her Christian Armenian neighbours as she can.

Interview with Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch: Dance of the Banished and the Armenian Genocide

Posted on April 23rd, 2015 by pajamapress

On April 24, 2015, Armenians around the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a systematic campaign by Turkish leaders in the Ottoman Empire to remove the empire’s Christian Armenian population. As evidenced by recent headlines, the subject is controversial today because the Turkish government denies that these deportations and killings can be labelled “genocide.”

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, a Canadian author of books for children and teens, will also be marking the anniversary. Skrypuch is no stranger to controversial history; her picture book Enough, written about the holodomor, earned her both death threats from angry readers and a medal from the President of Ukraine: the Order of Princess Olha. She has gone on to write over twenty other books for young readers, including her recent YA novel Dance of the Banished, which takes place during the Armenian Genocide. Skrypuch’s week is filled with events commemorating the genocide’s anniversary, but she took some time to speak with us about Dance of the Banished and why she writes books for young people about difficult subjects.

Zeynep’s portion of the story takes place in a tumultuous time and place: the Ottoman Empire during the Young Turk revolution and the Armenian Genocide. What challenges did you face in your research for Zeynep’s perspective?
DanceOfTheBanished_HR_RGBI rely heavily on first person accounts to build scenes and timelines in my novels. The problem while writing Dance of the Banished was that I could find no first person account from the perspective of an Alevi Kurd, even though thousands of Alevi Kurds witnessed the Genocide and their rescue operations are well-documented in other first person accounts. The trick was to wade through first person accounts of missionaries, Genocide survivors and others and piece together what Zeynep’s life would have been like during WWI and the Armenian Genocide. I also had to read up on Alevi beliefs. After I finished writing the novel, I sent it to Suleyman Goven, who is of Alevi Kurd heritage. He gave me detailed feedback to make Zeynep more authentic.

This is not the first time you have written about controversial historical events. What draws you to tell the stories that some would rather see forgotten?
I feel a responsibility to give a voice to people whose experiences have been silenced for political or religious reasons. I need to be passionate about my subject because otherwise I’d get bored with my own words. Writing these untold bits of history is my way of honouring the survivors.

Why do you think it is important for books on these subjects to be directed at children and young adults?
If I had written this book for adults I would have had to pad it with fluff and I don’t like writing fluff. I wanted to write a short but powerful and historically accurate novel. That by definition is a young adult novel.

The experiences of Ali in Dance of the Banished were based on actual events that took place in Canada during World War I, but that were forgotten for nearly a century. How did you come across the story?
Ali is interned by Canada in WWI. I knew about this incident for quite some time as my own grandfather had been interned. What I didn’t know was that 100 men who had emigrated from the Ottoman Empire and lived in Brantford had been interned. That information was brought to me by two Brantford historians. Figuring out who these men were became a journey in itself.

This year has been a time of commemoration both for the Armenian Genocide and the internment of so-called enemy aliens in Canada during World War I. You have been involved in events and speaking engagements for both. Have you had any particularly memorable experiences?
The local commemoration of the centenary of WWI internment took place on August 22, which was a Friday, and we began it at 11am. Despite it being held right before a long weekend and in the middle of a work day, the church hall was packed. Most people interned had been Ukrainian, but people from all different backgrounds came out. One woman who came out was Sharon Gashgarian, who was of Ukrainian heritage but had married an Armenian. She was blown away by the cover art on Dance of the Banished and contacted me later, asking permission to create a fabric art work based on the cover art. I contacted Pascal Milelli, the artist commissioned to create a painting for the cover, and he was fine with Sharon’s request.

I bought the original, and showed it to Sharon.

Tonight (April 21) I did a reading at the Brantford Public Library to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. This was part of a worldwide reading event to pay tribute to the many writers who have been killed for speaking out about the Genocide. Sharon attended, and she brought her fabric art. I brought Pascal’s original and we have both of them up on easels, covered with Ukrainian shawls. We revealed them both to the audience and Sharon presented me with her art work. It is breathtaking.

For the rest of the month, Sharon’s fabric art will be hanging in the front window of the Brantford Public Library, surrounded by my books and other books about the Armenian Genocide.

Click here to download this interview in PDF format.


A “story of hope and fear, love and determination, and the universal significance of bearing witness”—Booklist

Posted on April 21st, 2015 by pajamapress

Dance of the Banished, a WWI novel by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch“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