Brantford, Ontario, author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has written about both the internment of Ukrainian and Turkish Canadians during the First World War and the Armenian Genocide. Her latest book, Dance of the Banished, reveals little-known facts about both these topics through connected parallel tales.
Young and in love, Ali and Zeynep are two Anatolian teens who separate in June 1913 when Ali takes an unexpected opportunity to go to Canada. The two are not reunited for three years and, although they are continually in each other’s thoughts, their stories are independent, related via alternating sections of journal entries addressed to each other.
Zeynep’s experiences in war-torn Anatolia are more dramatic than Ali’s internment in Kapuskasing, Ontario. An attempt to rectify this with the introduction of a relationship between Ali and Nadie, a rather modern-sounding Cree teen, doesn’t fully work. Despite this, the descriptions of Ali’s life in camp and Zeynep’s struggle to survive are vividly portrayed.
The journal format helps the reader relate to each of the main characters and keeps the chronology ordered, but has inevitable limitations. The novel moves awkwardly into Ali’s head when Skrypuch wants to convey information Ali does not wish Zeynep to know, such as his relationship with Nadie.
Despite this flaw, Dance of the Banished will appeal strongly to kids with an interest in the past, even those a couple of grades younger than the recommended reading level. It is a timely contribution to both Canadian and global First World War history.