About the Book
Living with her Babby after her parents’ death, 10-year-old Dinah Ash is invited to train at Leningrad’s legendary Vaganova Ballet School. In the world of elite dance, she works hard, falls in love, and weathers the Soviet Union’s ubiquitous antisemitism, but despite an impressive talent, she quickly learns that dancers of her “profile” don’t make prima ballerinas.
Love of Leningrad, ballet, friends, family, and books sustain Dinah until history intervenes. The Soviet war in Afghanistan, the rise of perestroika, and a re-emergence of Nazism leave her vulnerable and exposed. Realizing escape is her only option, she applies for refugee status in America.
Dinah’s adjustment to life in the US is a test as much of her identity as of her perseverance. Is who she is something Dinah can forge on her own? Or is identity imposed by upbringing, public opinion, and the myths of our cultures? As Dinah struggles with the questions of religion, race, and worth, her choices and the people she encounters will determine whether the dream of a better life can survive the weight of the past.
Praise for The Light of Seven Days
Adams’ lyrical prose paints a lush, vivid, and imagistic portrait of the world through Dinah’s eyes. . . . A quiet, artfully rendered story of the beauty and difficulty of coming-of-age between cultures, in the shadow of history.
Adams’s affecting insight into their adopted home and the Russia they left is well worth the troika ride. . .[a] bracing debut.
In River Adams’ bracing and lyrical debut, The Light of Seven Days, a ballerina from the Soviet Union escapes to Philadelphia, a land of McDonalds and RiteAids, and the questions she finds: What is it like to flee from radical extremism? What does it mean to be white? To be American? To believe in God? could not be larger or more relevant. Adams’ novel reminds us that the eyes of the immigrant and the artist alike can make the familiar seem strange and the strange familiar.
—Kevin Birmingham, New York Times bestselling author of The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses
In River Adams’ lush, richly textured novel, we are taken so completely inside the Jewish Russian emigre experience, we forget the world we are sitting in. We breathe the close air of the ballet studio, taste the fresh black bread, and feel the terror of being ‘other’ in 1990s Leningrad. The journey from the Soviet Union to Philadelphia is exquisitely wrought and includes explorations of found family, the personal divine, and how to spend our short years on earth.
—Jennifer Acker, author of The Limits of the World
A bittersweet portrait of a young immigrant. River Adams offers an eye-opening account of the absurdities and private joys of late-twentieth-century Russia, as well as of class and race in America, in language that is frank, sensuous, and heartbreaking.
—Michelle Syba, author of End Times
A story of light and longing, of loss and discovery, of home and not home, and all the contradictions and questions that propel humanity forward, THE LIGHT OF SEVEN DAYS will captivate readers from the first page, catapulting them into an invigorating personal history that dances across continents and decades, while maintaining the intimacy and beauty of ballerina Dinah’s fascinating inner life. I simply couldn’t put it down — and you won’t be able to either.
—Madeline Kay Sneed, author of The Golden Season and Today Tonight Forever
About the Author
After growing up a concert pianist in late Soviet Russia, River Adams (they/them) came to America as a Jewish refugee. They graduated from Rosemont College and Harvard Divinity School, then returned to Philadelphia to teach religious studies and work as a medical interpreter for Russian-speaking patients. Today, having earned an MFA from Emerson College, they live in Massachusetts. They are the author of many published short stories and essays and a biography of Leonard Swidler, There Must Be YOU (2014). The Light of Seven Days is their debut novel.