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Writers Against Racism: Anna Levine

Anna Levine began her studies at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec 

annamodiin Writers Against Racism: Anna Levine

and received her MA in English Literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her YA novel Freefall was awarded a Sydney Taylor Honor’s Award from the American Association of Jewish Libraries, the same year Jodie’s Hanukkah Dig, about a young girl with a passion for the past and archaeology received a notable award from the same association.

Describe the impact racism had on you as a young person.

 

I grew up in Montreal, Quebec. It was the time of the French uprising. There were violent demonstrations (the 1970 October crisis), but as a young adult growing up in a predominantly Jewish, English speaking neighborhood my experience was more of a pluralistic one. During the summer, on Montreal’s Mount Royal, in the center of the city, everyone would join in an evening of international folk dancing, with Hebrew, Greek, and ethnic music of all types blaring from loudspeakers. Then in June, the streets became chock-a-block with the festivities for Saint-Jean Baptiste Day, Quebec’s national holiday. Expo 1967 was the epitome of how I remember Montreal being a city which celebrated all nations of the world.

 

How did this experience impact your professional work as a writer?

 

When I moved to Israel in the 1980s I was living on top of a mountain, a baseball’s pitch away from Lebanon. The closest community beside ours was an Arab village. Growing up in Montreal, I took for granted that communities can get along and interact together positively despite cultural and linguistic differences. If you grow up with intolerance, you learn bigotry and if you grow up with pluralism you practice tolerance. My first YA novel, Running on Eggs (Front Street/Cricket Books) is about two girls, both runners on a track team who become more than running mates, they become friends; one girl is Israeli the other Palestinian.

9780061576546 Writers Against Racism: Anna Levine 

How can literature combat racism?

 

I am a strong believer of the power that literature can have as a way of crossing cultural and linguistic borders. As writers, if we can envision and create worlds in which people co-exist then we can plant the seeds of change. My books have connected me with writers in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. But though both are neighboring countries, I am forbidden to enter either. Instead, I am working on putting together an on-line critique group with other writers in my part of the world. Literature allows us to see beyond the present and into a better and more tolerant future.

 

My most recent young adult novel, Freefall (Greenwillow/HarperCollins), gives an inside view of growing up in Israel with all the universal struggles experienced in adolescence, love, family, and friendships, set within the context of being a teen in Israel and the unique issues faced here. As a YA writer I want to celebrate that which makes each teen experience a unique one, because of their setting and cultural experience, while at the same time stressing an emotional universality. In this way, we may celebrate our cultural differences while recognizing the aspects which unite us. Freefall places these emotions within the context of the reality of living in the Middle East. The environment we wake up to every day affects our lives differently than, let’s say, someone living in the heart of America, and yet we love, dream, and cope with similar challenges.

 

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Anna Levine lives in Israel where she is the SCBWI (society of children’s book writers and illustrators) adviser. She writes, teaches and loves running through the Jerusalem hills for inspiration. Visit her at www.annalevine.org and www.freefallthenovel.com and watch her new book trailer.

Comments

  1. Roni says:

    Thanks Amy, looking forward to reading this one!

    Roni

  2. George Edward Stanley says:

    Anna, I really enjoyed reading your story. I’m looking forward to reading FREEFALL – for many reasons. Why, as a boy growing up in Memphis, Texas, I wanted to be Jewish, I have no idea. There was only one Jewish family in that Texas Panhandle town, and they owned the best department store, the Popular Dry Goods, where my mother always shopped. Although I occasionally heard it referred to as “the Jew store” (and even then, I’m sure the people who said it weren’t saying it to be derogatory, even if it was), the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Annismann, were one of the most well-liked and well-thought-of couples in town. Ida Annismann (I never knew what Mr. Annismann’s first name was) was one of the doyennes of Memphis society. (Don’t laugh! This was the late 40s, and little town were very self-sufficient!) She absolutely epitomized glamour to me. She was “New York” – although I’m not sure she had ever been there. I also think Leon Uris contributed mightily! I lived and breathed EXODUS – and I seriously (for a college freshman) considered living in a kibbutz in Israel. I didn’t, though. I went to South Africa for my doctorate in African linguistics and then to Chad to teach at the University of N’Djamena, and now I teach Arabic, Persian, and Swahili at a university in Oklahoma – which daily puts me in contact with people who often have very different opinions of Israel. I try, as you do, though, to show the similarities of cultures and to celebrate the differences. I also suggest books to read, older ones, that I read, which I believe helped me understand the Jewish people and the wonderful history and culture (and also made me want to be Jewish), but newer ones, too, which will pershaps speak better to young people. I plan to start suggesting yours!

  3. Doret says:

    I loved Freefall

    “If you grow up with intolerance, you learn bigotry and if you grow up with pluralism you practice tolerance.”

    Well Said

    The on line critque group sounds wonderful

  4. Tamar Fineberg says:

    I am true follower of Anna Levine’s writings, and enjoyed each and everyone of them – the lasted “Freefall” tops them all!!

    Thanks for the lovely reading.

  5. April Halprin Wayland says:

    I found Anna’s book Freefall to be moving and inspiring. We really can change the world with our words!

  6. Barbara Bamberger says:

    I enjoyed both “Freefall”, and Anna’s first book “Running on Eggs”, very much. She has a good handle on what life in Israel is like in the world of young people facing the challenges of life in a country where “unique issues”, as she puts it, are a part of everyday life.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Thanks Amy!
    As always good stuff…
    I bought the book for my daughter. We both finished reading it and agreed that it was a great read.

    Amy, I was wondering where I can find more books of Anna Levine. I saw here that someone mentioned “Running on Eggs”, but I couldn’t find it at all. Do you know this other book and/or other material of her?
    Thanks
    Jennifer

  8. Amy Bowllan says:

    Jennifer, thanks for the comment. I will forward your question to Anna and get back to you shortly.

  9. Anna says:

    Hi Jennifer…send me an email at annalevine.il@gmail.com. I have an extra copy and will be happy to send one over to you. I also have some poems and short stories on my website http://www.annalevine.org

  10. tanita says:

    Love the cover. Always interested in books which sanely and humanely explore growing up in conflicted countries.