The Light of Seven Days: A Novel (Hardcover)
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.
About the Author
Growing up a concert pianist in Soviet Russia, River Adams (they/them) came to America as a Jewish refugee during the collapse of the USSR and began their life from scratch in their adopted homeland. Before earning an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College, they graduated from the Delaware County Community College, Rosemont College, earned an MTS degree from Harvard Divinity School, then returned to Pennsylvania to teach world religions to college students at their alma maters. At the same time, they worked as a certified medical interpreter for Russian-speaking patients at Philadelphia hospitals. Over the past 30 years, they have traveled to and lived in 30 states, falling in love with each. Today, River lives in Massachusetts, writing and taking care of a big, noisy family of six humans, two dogs, and a demon disguised as a cat. They are the author of many published short stories, essays, and a biography of Leonard Swidler, There Must Be YOU (2014). The Light of Seven Days is their debut novel.
"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." — Kirkus Reviews
“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
“…an intimate and nuanced exploration of religion, nationality and personal identity in their impactful debut novel.” — NPR, Boston WBUR radio