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Winter Eyes (coming out novel) Kindle Edition

5 customer reviews

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Length: 226 pages

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This strongly affecting coming-of-age novel by the author of Dancing on Tisha B'Av concerns Stefan Borowski, the son of Polish Holocaust survivors living in Manhattan. Stefan spends his childhood in a hermetically sealed world created by his parents, who shield him from any knowledge of their terrible experiences. Raphael expertly evokes the feelings of an only child growing up among secretive, angry adults, his principal solace a deep attachment to his Uncle Sasha, an unmarried music teacher who teaches him to play the piano. In the novel's middle section, the Borowskis have divorced and Stefan, by his own choice, lives with Sasha. Feeling estranged both from his parents and from most of his high-school classmates, he finds release in a romantic affair with another teenage boy. The book's final chapters contain further revelations, as Stefan begins to deal with his own emotions, his mother's remarriage, his father's sudden illness and his first sexual relationship with a woman. In spare and controlled prose, Raphael captures the ambiguity, ambivalence and anger of this singular family, giving its members depth and credibility. His stringent honesty in depicting the often unappealing Borowskis makes their private anguish and their peculiar solutions compelling.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Raphael's book resembles a piano sonata, a piece he knows so well that his fingers breathed the music."
--Los Angeles Times

"One of the most affecting, absorbing, and quietly powerful American coming-of-age novels"
--Booklist

"Raphael is a writer of vision like Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin."
--Jewish Bulletin of San Francisco

"Raphael writes about the legacy of the Holocaust in a way few writers can.  About remembering and trying not to remember,  and about what people do to survive the darkness of their own past."
--Sacramento Bee

"Raphael handles grand themes: loneliness, separation, desire and the struggle with gay identity, daring his readers to contemplate wholeness."
--The Forward

Product Details


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 http://www.levraphael.com 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 Bibliobuffet.com 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 http://www.levraphael.com/europe_photos.html.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Anyone who has ever tried to come to terms with himself, to understand himself will identify with this compelling novel and its plot. Keeping secrets--even for supposedly "good" reasons--can be so destructive. This is just part of what Raphael's novel is trying to say. More and more, it seems as though there is a need for so many of us to find some link to our past; often, we find the path to that discovery blocked. Stefan faces just this sort of stumbling block in the novel. As he reaches to unmask the secrets, he is also in a process of self discovery. His growing awareness of himself as a gay young man may now mean that he has secrets of his own to keep. Triumphantly, however, the novel is not ultimately about guilt or shame. It is about discovery; it is about taking the results of discovery and making them your own. Stefan does, in fact, become a better man because of the search he has undertaken. This novel stays with you; its impact and intensity increase in the weeks and even months after it has been completed. I know I will read it again--I can pay no higher compliment to a book or its author.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Milton E Ford on July 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
Finding His Way through Unknowns

As I saw the number of unread pages dwindling, I was plagued by fear that this engaging novel might just stop rather than really ending, but as I read the conclusion of Winter Eyes at two o?clock in the morning, I lifted both thumbs over my head and said, ?Yes, yes, yes!? The book is a great read with an explosion of an ending, fireworks.

Lev Raphael?s Winter Eyes is a richly textured portrait of Stefan Borowski as he grows up in New York with parents who are traumatized by their World War II past in Poland. They do everything possible not to deal with that painful history and to protect Stefan from it. These secrets and his awakening sexual interests create a world of unknowns for him. I always cared about and was sometimes anxious about him as he found his way through family and peer relationships from the first grade through his first year of college.

In addition to being excellent reading, Winter Eyes gives new perspectives for thinking about important questions involving families, the past, and sexuality.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David MacCarthy on September 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have read many of this author's works. As always I am moved and perhaps a bit dirtied by his canny ability to get me into the web of his story. Winter Eyes took me though New York as I knew it growing up. The people are real, the smells are powerful and the prejudices are grating. Our family use to say you had to speak 6 languages to cross all the territories from home to school. Mr. Raphael doesn't say these things, he shows it in his dialogue, the mystery of couplings working and coming undone and the alliances among family members. These assets make Winter Eyes so poignant to me, particularly when one assumes that surviving the holocaust was so unbelievable that nothing else could harm you. That myth was shattered as the author shows how the survivors are still in prison and their attempts to protect the family become a worse warden. Tough, straight and vivid read.
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By A Customer on February 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Stefan, the child of Holocaust survivors, is denied knowledge of his own identity and family history. His parents and Uncle Sasha, who have suffered endless horrors during the Holocaust, conspire to protect Stefan from the secret of his heritage. They deny their religion, their ancestors, and their heritage, leaving an empty void in its place. Stefan's relationship with his parents is a metaphor for that emptiness. There is no warmth, love, or strong family ties in his relationship to them. When he tries to learn about his aunt, grandparents, and family history his inquiries are rebuffed. Stefan, in turn, rebuffs his parents' attempts to stay close to him. After their separation he rejects them, prefering to live with his uncle.
He denies his parents their right to happiness when they try to move on in their lives, although they are obviously both doing much better apart.
This haunting story indicates that the pain and sorrow of the Holocaust survives, and impacts the life and destiny of so many generations after the event.
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By Gill on December 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As per usual for all of Lev's books, he grabs the reader from the first page in and never lets go until the last page. Then the regret arrives...if only I had of read it slower and savored it. Lev has a wonderful way with words, he paints us word pictures so we know just what he wants us to see and feel and experience.
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