EXCERPT: My family told stories. We swallowed them in place of food and water. Stories kept us alive in our underground sanctuary. The world continued to carry out its crimes above us, while we fought to just remain whole below.
Yesterday, daughter, you found my copy of Joan of Arc, hidden under dark rafters for many years. Musty, foxed with brown spots from months of cave humidity and attic dampness, you brought it to me with huge worried questions in your clear brown eyes. You presented it to me silently, opened to the many penciled lines that counted off our days in hiding. The lines, every fifth day crossed off like the gate to a picket fence, but those gates were locked to freedom. The smudged gray lines spread over endpapers, margins, chapter openers. Each line representing one more day of survival. Each line a triumph. Each line a part of me I managed to lock away.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: Inspired by real Holocaust events, this poignant debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age story that will resonate with fans of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray.
Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of fourteen when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Until the German occupation, Hanna spent her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon Stadnick, and helping her neighbor dye decorative pysanky eggs. But now she, Leon, and their families are forced to flee and hide in the forest outside their shtetele—and then in the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows, rumored to harbor evil spirits. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, while the hunt continues above. When Hanna’s father disappears, suddenly it’s up to Hanna to find him—and to find a way to keep the rest of her family, and friends, alive.
MY THOUGHTS: I was excited by the prospect of reading My Real Name is Hanna. I was excited by the opening chapter. But I was unmoved by the remainder of the book.
It is a story that needs telling, lest we forget, and I applaud the author’s motivation for doing so. (Will I be crucified for admitting that I enjoyed the author’s notes at the end of the book far more than I did the book itself?) But I found it all rather banal. I didn’t feel the fear. Or the horror. I felt nothing. It all seemed rather sanitized. I was disappointed.
THE AUTHOR: Tara Lynn Masih is editor of the Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (a ForeWord Book of the Year), The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (winner of a Skipping Stones Honor Award; a New England Book Festival award; a Benjamin Franklin silver medal award; and a ForeWord Book of the Year Award), and author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows, a National Best Books Award finalist. She is the founding series editor of The Best Small Fictions, and My Real Name Is Hanna, her debut novel for young readers and adults set in WW II Ukraine, is due out Sept. 2018 and received a 2018 SKIPPING STONES HONOR AWARD and appears on Goodreads’ 2018 Ultimate Fall YA Reading List and their Best of the Month Sept. YA list.
Tara received an MA in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College, and has published fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous anthologies and literary magazines, and her essays have been read on NPR and translated to dance. Several limited edition illustrated chapbooks featuring her flash fiction, along with poet’s farthing cards, have been published by The Feral Press.
Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest, a finalist fiction grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Lou P. Bunce Creative Writing Award, multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, and Best New American Voices and Best of the Web nominations.
Tara was the assistant editor for STORIES literary magazine, and a regular contributor to The Indian-American and Masala magazines. She divides her time between Andover, MA, and St. Augustine, FL.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Mander Vilar Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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