Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"All the Light There Was"

Nancy Kricorian is the author of the novels Zabelle and Dreams of Bread and Fire. She grew up in the Armenian community of Watertown, Massachusetts, and earned her undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College; she spent the following year studying at the University of Paris – Jussieu. After completing a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry at Columbia University, Kricorian taught at Yale, Rutgers, Barnard and Queens Colleges.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, All the Light There Was, and reported the following:
All the Light There Was is the story of Maral Pegorian, who is fourteen when the novel opens and German troops march through her Parisian neighborhood on the way to occupy the city. I was amazed, while researching the book, how the rituals of daily life flowed on even in the harshest of circumstances; indeed, how just trying to live normally could be itself a kind of resistance to the terrors unfolding around one. On page 69, Maral and her schoolmate Denise Rozenbaum are walking towards the Lycée Victor Hugo where they are students. It is two years into the Occupation, and Maral is now sixteen years old. Rather than talk about the recent imposition of the yellow star on the Jews of Paris, Maral and Denise discuss the boy Maral has a crush on and whether or not he likes her back. Their girl talk, however, cannot exist in a vacuum, as you can see in the excerpt:
The next morning when I met Denise on the corner of the rue de Belleville on the way to school, she was wearing a yellow fabric star sewn to her jacket. The law had gone into effect a few days before, and it was the first I had seen of this new insult.

Denise avoided my eyes. “Did you see Z.K. this weekend?”

I followed her lead, slipping into conversation without comment about the ignominious star. “We had Sunday dinner with his family yesterday.”

“Did you get to talk with him alone?”

“Nothing. Not even an elbow next to mine on the table.”

“At this rate, you could be eighteen before he says anything,” Denise said.

“Maybe he never will. Maybe he’s not interested in me.”

“You know that’s not true.”

Just then, a mother and a little blond boy of about five years old walked by. The boy pointed at the star on Denise’s jacket and said, “Mama, look, a Jew.” The mother leaned down and whispered something into his ear as she hurried him past.
Learn more about the book and author at Nancy Kricorian's website.

--Marshal Zeringue