The Light of Sev­en Days

January 8, 2023

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.

Discussion Questions

Riv­er Adams’s tri­umph of a debut fol­lows the jour­ney of Dinah Ash, first as a recent­ly orphaned pre­teen train­ing at Leningrad’s Vagano­va Bal­let School, and lat­er as a refugee in Amer­i­ca, escap­ing Sovi­et anti­semitism. As Dinah moves through these two worlds, she asks her­self, and the read­er, ques­tions about iden­ti­ty: How much does the out­side world, and the past, deter­mine who we are? And what does it mean to be a refugee, an immi­grant, a Jew? Adams deft­ly explores such weighty themes while also depict­ing Dinah with a rare, qui­et empa­thy that makes us real­ly root for her. She does­n’t let us look away from the trau­ma Dinah expe­ri­ences. Instead, Adams pro­vides us with the tools we need to learn along­side this pro­tag­o­nist. The Light of Sev­en Days is engross­ing, urgent, and brave.