Author Playlists

Leora Skolkin-Smith’s Playlist for Her Novel “Stealing Faith”

“Any time I listened to violin music, it brought Grace into my world, whether by the sorrowful notes or the jubilant, loving ones.”

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Leora Skolkin-Smith’s novel Stealing Faith is a moving and complex coming-of-age story.

BookLife wrote of the book:

“Skolkin-Smith (Edges: O Israel, O Palestine) spins a resonant, beautifully told coming-of-age story focusing on feminism, mental health, and grief . . . With two flawed and complex women coming to full life on the pages, this is an emotional story that is raw and revelatory, digging deep into the complexities these two face within themselves, each other, and in society. Takeaway: A raw and gripping novel of obsession, connection, and a feminist awakening in the 1970s.”

In her own words, here is Leora Skolkin-Smith’s Book Notes music playlist for her novel Stealing Faith:

The Violin

My novel, Stealing Faith, is about a bad depression I experienced in my twenties for which I had to be hospitalized. The mental hospital was drab, oppressive, and sorrowful as if a sad violin was playing in its washed out air, and yet the same violin, the instrument of both sorrow and immense joy could also play a song of personal freedom and a finding of self.

I was on a journey towards a resolution of self-hate. Once, not long ago from this time, my mother, an Israeli, sent me to Jerusalem to “get my head straight.” Whenever I was depressed there, her sister, my aunt, would take me to the Jerusalem concert hall. The song that was most resonant to me was Jascha Heifetz playing a Tchaikovsky violin concerto. This movement seemed to contain the depth of despair and a journey towards light. Although my despair was small and private it carried the seeds of something universal and grand, as if I had entered a special chamber of emotional depths. When Heifetz was plucking the strings with his fingers he made me think of “reaching” for something to get me out of despair.

Very often thinking of Heifetz’s playing was much like the woman who drew me out of despair: Grace Paley. In contrast she was colorful, playful, and full of joy and heart. Though like the violin she could write subtly of despair. Lean, held against the chin and cheek, the tones of despair are restless in Grace Paley’s work, mordant and dark, as the violin is. Whenever I felt a sense of relief, being loved and heard, and thereby getting free of the binds of despair, I also thought of Grace Paley and Heifetz playing the violin concerto.

Both filled the air and made an exuberance out of longing, Grace and the violin, announcing perhaps the entrance of hope. Any time I listened to violin music, it brought Grace into my world, whether by the sorrowful notes or the jubilant, loving ones.

I always listened to this because it went from sadness to finding myself in the midst of such darkness. One can find the song here easily on the internet and it is inspiring on many other levels and for other purposes as well.

Leora Skolkin-Smith was born in Manhattan in 1952 and spent her childhood between Pound Ridge, New York, and Israel, traveling with her family to her mother’s birthplace in Jerusalem every three years. Edges, her first novel, won the 2008 Earphones Award for an original audio production narrated by Tovah Feldshuh. It is currently in preproduction as a feature film titled, The Fragile Mistress, produced by Triboro Pictures. She is also the author of the novel Hystera, which won a Global E-book Award and was a finalist for an International Book Award and an Indie Excellence Award. Stealing Faith is her third novel.

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