Until the Dawn’s Light

I think Miranda Burgess said it best when she said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that it’s not the explicitly tragic parts of the novel that make her most emotional, but the suspended pockets of beauty.

Like any piece of work regarding the subject of jewish persecution, Until the Dawn’s Light is at times a very difficult text to stomach. Although the narrative jumps back and forth between the present and the past, I could still feel the slow erasure of Blanca’s identity through her experiences. She is denied her humanity in virtually every sense, as the oppressive nature of her environment denies her any opportunity to dignify herself.

More personally, the theme of assimilation as annihilation struck me in particular as a first-generation Korean person. I remember always being proud of being able to speak english “like a white person” and not behaving like someone who was “fresh off the boat”. I remember the shame that surfaced to my skin when I began to realize how much of myself I had lost in the years that I had wasted, desperately trying to be accepted in a community where I felt alien.

And then I remember the moments in my childhood that were uniquely a part of my ethnic experience. Lullabies sung to me in my mother-tongue, sweet-rice dessert drinks, twirling in bright, traditional dresses. I recall these memories and wonder how I could ever have kept this part of my identity tucked away for as long as I did. But I’m almost glad that I left them untouched, I’m glad I never spoiled them. They were always safe behind the doors of my home.

“[Memories are] everything that was and will never be again”
I’m not sure if I agree with this. For the rest of my life I will still be reaching for those suspended moments.

1 thought on “Until the Dawn’s Light

  1. Christina Hendricks

    This is such a wonderful post–thank you. I cannot know what it must be like to experience the pressure to assimilate and to feel oneself that one ought to do so (and be proud when one does), and then to look back later and wonder why. Blanca is a vivid picture of that, and I could feel myself cringing when she agreed with Adolf that she needed to change, needed to purge herself of her family and her Jewish identity. She seems to clearly want to get back to that somehow with her journey at the end, but perhaps it is too late (she never gets to her destination). Thanks for helping me think more deeply about this aspect of the novel, and how it’s an experience that many people have.


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