Part action novel, part history, part love story – Dance of the Banished is a book which will linger in the reader’s mind.
Zeynep and Ali are young Alevi Kurds in Anatolia, Turkey who are dreaming of a future together. Ali leaves his fiancée when he gets passage to Canada and Zeynep’s world is thrown into chaos when war breaks out. Their ensuing stories are told in alternating chapters and letters. Zeynep travels to a city where life is becoming more dangerous each day. It soon becomes clear that the Turks are using the camouflage of war to murder the minority Armenian population and Zeynep is a horrified witness.
Meanwhile, in Brampton, Ontario Ali is swept up with other immigrants and imprisoned in a war camp in northern Ontario. To the Canadian government, he is Turkish because he came from Turkey, and is therefore an enemy of Canada. Through everything, the main couple hold each other in their hearts and dream of dancing the semah together again. The semah is a religious dance and form of worship for the Alexi Kurds and is the inspiration for the book’s title and the cover painting by Pascal Milelli.
There are many stories set during World War 1, however few have touched on the period of the Armenian genocide and few books have also tackled the uncomfortable truth about innocents interred in Canada’s wartime camps. The characters’ love for each other and fierce hope despite terrible odds is very compelling and urges an ending of reunion and the righting of wrongs.
There is a reason why this book won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch can bring history to life in a way that few others can