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Secret Anniversaries of the Heart: New and Selected Stories by Lev Raphael Paperback – January 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Michigan NPR commentator Raphael is the author of Little Miss Evil and other mysteries; he also penned The German Money and other "second generation" fiction centered on the children of Holocaust survivors; coauthored Coming Out of Shame and other nonfiction works on being gay and Jewish; and wrote a memoir, Writing a Jewish Life, also pubbing in January (Reviews, Nov. 28). About half of these 25 stories are new; others appeared in his collection Dancing on Tisha B'Av. In many of them, the children of Holocaust survivors grapple with their parents' silences and disclosures, caught in the eddies of their losses and expectations. Many of the protagonists are gay, considering their Judaism and their sexuality with measures of passion and reluctance. Raphael's language is searching and expansive, but the awkward dance between Old and New World repeats from story to story; while the facts surrounding the tensions change, the characters take on a studied familiarity. (Jan.)
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About the Author

Lev Raphael is the author of fifteen books and known internationally as the chronicler of the lives of the children of Holocaust survivors. Winner of the Lambda Literary Award, among many prizes, his short works have appeared in two dozen anthologies. He performs all over the country at Jewish Book Fairs and has a weekly book show on NPR.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Leapfrog Press (January 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0972898476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0972898478
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,132,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lev Raphael has wanted to be an author since he was in second grade, and he's not only achieved his dream, he's published twenty-five books in genres from memoir to mystery to Jane Austen Mashup; had his books translated into nearly a dozen languages; appeared in two documentaries; won various prizes; done hundreds of invited talks and readings on three different continents; recently sold his literary papers (92 boxes!) to the Michigan State University Libraries (MSUL); been the subject of scholarly articles, papers and book chapters; and seen his work taught at colleges and universities around the country. Which means he's become homework. Who knew?

Born and raised in New York, he got over it and has spent half his life in Michigan. He's a pioneer in writing about children of Holocaust survivors, which he's been doing since 1978, longer than almost any other American author. He frequently tours with his books (check for his current schedule) and is currently touring with My Germany, a memoir/travelogue exploring the role Germany has played in his family, his life, and his career.

After he escaped academia to write full-time, he reviewed extensively for over a decade for the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Radio, The Washington Post, Jerusalem Report, The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Forward, Boston Review, and Lambda Book Report. He now reviews for and WKAR 90.5 FM/East Lansing Public Radio, and when he's not busy, he sometimes imagines some graduate student years from now in the MSUL archives puzzling over his handwriting.

A seasoned reader of his own work, with a background in theater and teaching, he loves the performance aspect of touring, as well as meeting people he'd never meet back home. And the sightseeing. And the foreign foods. For photos from his previous German book tours, go to

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on October 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Ever since Yom Kippur I've been reading this book of stories as though my life depended on it, and strangers have gotten used to the sight of my walking down the street, boarding the cable car, and poking my way through the alleys of San Francisco with Lev Raphael's book propped up in front of my face. I might as well have a cane because I'm blind to everything else when I'm reading one of his books. And this one, i think, must be the best of them all, for as a collection of stories this improves on his earlier DANCING ON TISHA B'AV by abstracting the best of them and then adding as many more. The first book came out perhaps 15 years ago, and since then he has only gotten even more into writing, and his wisdom about people has only grown, exponentially as it happens, so when you read one of his stories, it is like having a new life to live.

I don't know much about Jewish life so I don't know how accurate he is being about the mindset and customs of his characters (though I should say, not all of them are Jewish) but even a Gentile like me, who hardly ever has a religious thought in his head, comes to understand some of the conflicts shown by his people. In the title story, a writer living in Michigan with a successful and somewhat overbearing partner joins a writing group and encounters a Hungarian novelist with a mean streak who runs the group like a little Dick Cheney. To his chagrin, David can't speak up against this tyrant's ranting, even when it turns homophobic and a Bolivian newcomer is attacked for his poetry. Another workshop participant, Chase, reveals in rapid succession that not only is he Jewish, but he's on the down low, a married man with a hankering for David.
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16 of 75 for 2015. Most of what I know about Judaism I learned from reading Lev Raphael. His collection of stories Dancing on Tisha B'Av came out in 1990, and it must have been that year I read it. I've since read most of his work, skipping only the children's books and the psychology works he co-authored with his partner Gershen Kaufman. Secret Anniversaries of the Heart came out in 2006, and I may have read it then, but when I found it on my shelves last week, I pulled it down to (re)read it. Some of the stories were very familiar, others seemed new to me, but all were engaging, well told, and thought provoking. Many of the stories involve the children of Holocaust survivors growing up in the United States--a place their parents find extremely foreign. Many of the stories are centered on gay men who are trying to reconcile their sexuality with their religion. All involve the struggle of faith with modern American life. Secret Anniversaries is divided into three sections. The final section is a group of five stories starting with the original Dancing on Tisha B'Av and then building from that story--more deeply probing the life of Nat, Mark, Brenda and their parents. This alone would have made the collection valuable to me, but the twenty stories in the first two sections are outstanding in themselves. As a gay man, I can relate to the homosexuality of the characters, if not their religion. As a student of World War II in Europe, I appreciate the stories of the Holocaust survivors--as much as we learn from these people who in Raphael's world are mostly closed off and silent about the past. These are stories I will read again and again, never tiring of Raphael's prose.Read more ›
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In "Secret Anniversaries of the Heart" a collection of 25 short stories by Lev Raphael, there is an aphorism from Rabbi Lawrence Kushner about the search for spirituality that sums up the thrust of these stories: "Entrances are everywhere and all the time. You don't have to become something other than yourself, because you're already there."

Consciously or not, Raphael's characters are hungry for God, but most of them kept from their promised land by the Holocaust, by anti-Semitism and homophobia.

Although their concerns are far-reaching, Raphael's characters fall into such neat categories that they might as well be card suits. There are Holocaust survivors who remain emotionally frozen, and those whose reserve shatters when they encounter a relative thought lost. There are the sons and daughters of Holocaust survivors who decide to embrace or reject their bloody inheritance. There are gay Jewish men who find the key to their closet, and those who do not.

From story to story, Raphael shuffles these characters, deals the hand and scores the result. There's the boy whose great aunt shuns him after he writes about her experiences in the war. A pair of gay lovers are expelled from an orthodox synagogue when they are outed. And in the title story, a bookstore writing class falls apart when the honesty needed to create compelling fiction becomes too much for the teacher.

A few of the stories even deal with murder, a reminder that Raphael has also written a number of excellent crime novels featuring an academic as amateur detective. The contrast between stories of family conflict and crime should be jarring, but his narrative voice flows so consistently from story to story that they all seem part of a piece.
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