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Join Isaac Alhadeff Professor of Sephardic Studies Devin E. Naar in conversation with author Elizabeth Graver as she discusses her moving, multi-generational saga inspired by her grandmother. Rebecca née Cohen Baruch Levy was born into a Sephardic Jewish family from Istanbul in the early 20th century, and her kaleidoscopic journey takes her to Barcelona, Havana, and ultimately New York, exploring themes of displacement, endurance, and family as home.

Kantika—meaning “song” in Ladino— is a lush, lyrical novel which celebrates the legacy of language, and the insistence on seizing beauty and grabbing hold of one’s one and only life.

“Far from being a Pollyannaish tale of New World success, Kantika is a meticulous endeavor to preserve the memories of a family, an elegy and a celebration both. — Ayten Tartici, New York Times, April 2023

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About the author

Portrait of Elizabeth Graver smilingElizabeth Graver’s fifth novel, Kantika (Metropolitan Books/Holt, 2023),  was inspired by her grandmother, Rebecca née Cohen Baruch Levy, who was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Istanbul, and whose tumultuous and shape-shifting life journey took her to Spain, Cuba and New York.  German and Turkish editions are forthcoming. Elizabeth’s fourth novel, The End of the Point, was long-listed for the 2013 National Book Award in Fiction and selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her other novels are Awake, The Honey Thief, and Unravelling. Her story collection, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Best American Essays. The mother of two daughters, she teaches at Boston College.

About the moderator

Portrait of Devin Naar smiling, in suite jacketDevin E. Naar is the Isaac Alhadeff Professor in Sephardic Studies, Associate Professor of History, and faculty at the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Naar graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis and received his Ph.D. in History at Stanford University. He has also served as a Fulbright fellow to Greece. His first book, Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece, was published by Stanford University Press in 2016. The book won the 2016 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Research Based on Archival Material and was named a finalist in Sephardic Culture. It also won the 2017 Edmund Keeley Prize for best book in Modern Greek Studies awarded by the Modern Greek Studies Association.