Talking About Book Dedications by the Forward

Talking About Book Dedications

David Samuel Levinson’s stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, West Branch, and the Brooklyn Review, among others. He lives in New York City. “Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence” is his first novel. His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:

Talking About Book Dedications by the ForwardTalking About Book Dedications by the Forward

I knew I was going to dedicate my first novel, [“Antonia Lively Breaks The Silence,”][2] to my maternal grandparents long before I ever set out to write it. Or let me rephrase that: until I was tasked with dedicating the novel, I had no idea just how clear it had been that I would dedicate it to them. During the years it took me to write the novel, I never thought about the dedication, nor did I think much about my dearly departed grandparents, though in retrospect they were always with me, whispering their story into my ear.

No, the novel isn’t about them, not literally anyway, but it does touch upon certain themes — displacement, trauma, assimilation, ambition — which I would never have plumbed had I not known the intimate details of their struggles. Marianne and Stephan—Mimi and Steve to their friends—were both born in Vienna, where they met and married. Both full-blooded Jews, their Jewishness never played a significant role in their upbringing. They were Jewish, just not religious, and rarely attended shul.

visitingscribe/david-samuel-levinson book/antonia-lively-breaks-the-silence-david-samuel-levinson

Long before their conversion to Catholicism in 1930, long before they fled Austria in 1936, it seemed they had already begun the slow, arduous process of shedding themselves of their Jewish identities to live a Jewish-less life in America. They arrived on Ellis Island in 1938, after having spent time in Istanbul, then Geneva. They bought a house in Manhasset, NY, and there raised my mother and my aunt as good Catholic girls, never once alluding to the war, or to what they left behind in Europe.

Like my grandparents, who loved Vienna and missed it every day, many of the characters in Antonia Lively Breaks The Silence yearn both physically and emotionally for a place to which they cannot return. How then, my novel asks, do we make a home elsewhere? How then do we find happiness in a strange place when we have been stripped, or have stripped ourselves, of our identities, that which made us who we were?

I wrote the novel to answer this question, among many others, for myself. When you read it, I hope you will find an answer or two for yourself.


Learn more about David Samuel Levinson here.


The Jewish Book Council is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the reading, writing and publishing of Jewish literature. For more Jewish literary blog posts, reviews of Jewish books and book club resources, and to learn about awards and conferences, please visit www.jewishbookcouncil.org.

MyJewishLearning.com is the leading transdenominational website of Jewish information and education. Visit My Jewish Learning for thousands of articles on Judaism, [Jewish holidays,][12] [Jewish history][13] and more.

about/ _blog/The_ProsenPeople/ awards/ resources/

Talking About Book Dedications

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Talking About Book Dedications

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close