Monday, June 22, 2009

Notable book signing in Atlanta this Wednesday, June 24

An Atlanta resident, musician, and Spivey Hall patron, Zhanna Dawson, is the focus of a recent book by her son, journalist Greg Dawson, entitled Hiding in the Spotlight. Her story is truly extraordinary. As described in a review by Publisher's Weekly:

In this remarkable recreation of the WWII years, Dawson, a columnist at the Orlando Sentinel, writes about his mother, pianist Zhanna Arshanskaya in an account reminiscent of Wladyslaw Szpilman's The Pianist. As a child in the Ukraine, Zhanna was offered a scholarship to the Moscow State Conservatory.

Her life changed in 1941 when Nazis grouped her Jewish family with thousands to be executed; Zhanna and her sister, Frina, escaped to roam the countryside as fugitives, hiding and surviving. With a new name and a non-Jewish identity, Zhanna performed for unsuspecting Nazis. Arriving in New York in 1946, the sisters enrolled at Juilliard on scholarships. Zhanna married violist David Dawson, and the couple moved in 1948 to Bloomington, Ind., joining the music faculty at Indiana University.

To research his mother's homeland, Dawson traveled to Ukraine, including Dorbitsky Yar, where 15,000 Jews were murdered, among them Zhanna and Frina's parents. On a memorial listing the dead, Dawson was shocked to find his mother's name: “I had come that close to nonexistence.” With italicized selections from his mother's own writing, Dawson skillfully weaves the story of her life and music into a vibrant tapestry, tattered and torn, yet triumphant.

Greg and Zhanna Dawson will be at the Buckhead Barnes & Noble (2900 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30305, 404-261-7747) this Wednesday, June 24, at 7:00 PM for a special booksigning event. I imagine not a few of Spivey Hall's pianophile patrons will recognize Zhanna; she was also featured recently in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in relation to the book's release. I look forward to seeing them there, and encourage you to attend as well!

More about Greg, Zhanna, and Hiding in the Spotlight: