- Paperback: 195 pages
- Publisher: Mandel Vilar Pr (18 September 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1942134517
- ISBN-13: 978-1942134510
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 327 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
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My Real Name Is Hanna Paperback – 15 Sep 2018
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"Tara Masih's lovely, lyrical My Real Name is Hanna made me feel like I was reading a part of my parents' story that I'd neglected to write. Filled with breathtaking you-are-there historical detail, filigreed with touches of Jewish and Ukrainian folklore, Masih's tale of a young Jewish girl hiding out in the caves and forests of the Ukraine is a worthy addition to the canon of Holocaust literature for young readers. As fine, delicate, and artful as a painted pysanka egg."-Helen Maryles Shankman, They Were Like Family to Me, finalist for The 2016 Story Prize
"It's said the Holocaust defies imagination. Tara L. Masih defies that notion. My Real Name is Hanna is a powerful, revelatory leap of imagination, taking readers on a journey with 14-year-old Hanna from the slowly enveloping horror of the Holocaust, to the literal and spiritual depths of being buried alive, and finally a salvation of ineffable joy and sadness--emerging from a premature grave into sunlight like a defiant young phoenix. An unforgettable odyssey."-Greg Dawson, Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy's Story of Survival
"My Real name is Hanna is a beautifully told and deeply moving novel. Masih is to be commended for shining light on a little-known piece of Ukrainian history and for portraying a Jewish family determined to survive the Second World War. This novel is about the stories that surround and sustain us in the darkest times--from the histories in the trees and in the ground beneath us to the words that feed us."-New York Times Bestselling Author Tilar J. Mazzeo, Irena's Children, a New York Post Best Book of 2016
"From the very first lines, this is a beautiful, compelling story. I was moved again and again by Hanna's courage. It takes a strong imagination and a great heart to bring to life a Jewish family's struggle to survive in such a dark time as World War II. In bringing light to the caves of memory, Tara Masih gives us the redeeming power of storytelling in this extraordinary story."-PEN/Hemingway Award winner Bobbie Ann Mason, The Girl in the Blue Beret and In Country
"My Real Name is Hanna is a stirring story of survival, resilience, and love. Masih breathes life into the smallest of details, and gives us a powerful look into a world not often explored." -Crystal Chan, Bird, shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, winner of the 2015 Burr/Worzalla Award
"A gripping story of courage and endurance in the face of Nazi terror. Tara Masih draws her readers into the lives of a Ukrainian Jewish family, into the persecution and unbelievable hardship suffered during the German occupation of their homeland. My Real Name is Hanna is a book that lives with you long after you have turned the final page."-Diney Costeloe, Bestselling Author of The Girl with No Name and The Throwaway Children
From the Inside Flap
Hanna has split her time between exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, sharing drawings over lunch with the sweet and shy Leon Stadnick, and assisting her neighbor, Mrs. Petrovich, with her annual dyeing and selling of psyanky, decorative eggs many in their community consider talismans. But before long, she, Leon and their families are forced into hiding, first in the woods outside of their town and then into caverns beneath it. They battle sickness and starvation, and the local peasants who join the Nazis in hunting Jews through the ravaged countryside, but at no time are they more tested than when Hanna's father briefly above ground to scavenge for food goes missing, and suddenly, it's on Hanna to find him, and to find a way to keep her mother, brother and sister alive.
My Real Name is Hanna is inspired by the true story of Esther Stermer and her family, who survived underground for 511 days, far longer than anyone ever has; expert cavers, by contrast, have only lasted a handful of months. Less than 5% of the Jewish population in Ukraine survived the Holocaust "Actions." The Stermers are one of the few families that remained intact. Their story is the focus of an award-winning documentary, No Place on Earth, but it like so many Ukrainian stories of the Holocaust has yet to be explored in literature outside of Esther's own self-published, difficult to find memoir. My Real Name Is Hanna will resonate with fans of Anna and the Swallow Man and The Librarian of Auschwitz. In lyrical prose and innovative structure, Hanna's story celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit, the beauty of a helping hand, and the power of family connections.
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“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 just to remain whole below.
Yesterday, daughter, you found my copy of "Joan of Arc", hidden under dark rafters for many years.”
. . .
I close my eyes, and it’s as if I am there again, in the dark, trying to live to see another day.
So now it is my turn to tell you a story, my darling daughter. My story. Finally. May it not harm you. May it feed you in some way and give you hope.”
This is a hard read. Don’t get me wrong – it’s easy enough to understand because it’s written for young people. But it is hard on the heart the way The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is hard. If you haven't experienced this, it’s impossible to imagine your own family living through it. Based on real stories, particularly those of one family, Masih has given us a kind of Anne Frank in Ukraine.
The narrator is Hanna Slivka, a young Jewish girl in Ukraine whose family is increasingly threatened by the Nazis. Ukrainians had already survived famine and oppression under Stalin – well, some of them survived. Now they were facing Hitler, whose troops were gradually restricting the freedom of the Jews. Some fled to other countries, while others wanted to stay in their homes, figuring they’d already survived the worst.
Hanna’s family stays put for the time being. Her father is needed in the village to repair equipment, so he’s protected for a time. Hanna is friends with Mrs Petrovich, Alla, a Christian who lives nearby and who makes decorated eggs which she sells to clients at Easter as symbols of luck. Different symbols painted on them bring different kinds of luck, and Hanna is a great help to her as the old lady’s hands and fingers are stiffening up.
Because Alla is a kind old lady who often gives the family food, Hanna is allowed to go to help her (which she loves!) in return.
“My people were once sun worshippers, long before the man who we believed was Christ was born. In the spring, we made these eggs and gave them away as talismans. Because the sun god was the most important deity in our religion, birds were the sun’s chosen creations because they were the only ones, man or beast, who could even come close to him in flight. We humans could not catch birds or be a bird, but we could get to their eggs, a source of life.”
So there you have Easter Eggs.
Before long, Jews are forbidden from working and from getting full rations at the butcher or baker. A pair of boys who have a wagon deliver things back and forth and are allowed to keep working, but they are obviously terrified at what they’re witnessing. Hanna eavesdrops and hears them tell her father about a slaughter where they drove the Jews into the river.
“‘Women and children, too!’
‘The soldiers played music while they watched,’ Jacob says quietly. ‘It was not of this world. The gramophone sending such beautiful classical notes through the valley while this slaughter took place. The music could not cover the sounds of the drowning or the machine gun fire.’”
When the family gets word that the soldiers are beginning to take over homes and shoot people, they have to make some heart-breaking decisions. How Hanna and her family deal with being the hunted is the stuff of nightmares. She takes her beloved Mark Twain book, "Personal Recollections of Joan Of Arc" with her everywhere and is inspired by how strong Joan of Arc was.
Hanna has blond hair, which draws less attention to her than to the others in the family if they are seen. When she is the one who has to go alone into the forest, she remembers much of what old Alla taught her.
“Alla teaches me about spirits. And that everything in nature means something. That the world outside is basically a map for us, with all the guidance and answers we need.”
Because she’s studied the forest and listened and paid attention to the smallest details she has learned to be brave.
“I am no longer afraid to walk in the dark. Moonlight might be a companion, but darkness and shadows have become my friends. The night covers me like a velvet cloak. And I am no longer afraid of the night animals. They have no wish to harm us if we leave them alone.”
It's a short, poignant novel, and the author’s notes at the end are terrific, explaining much of the background and her research.
A new book about an old story that I hope will remain an old story, but with the current push by world bullies to turn our backs on anyone different, I worry.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
In this story, the Slivka family is helped by some of those righteous gentiles, as was the case, in real life, with the Stermer family. It is difficult to see how anyone could have survived at all otherwise.
When the book begins, Hanna Slivka, the narrator, is about to tell her history to her daughter, so we know that at least she herself survived. She begins her story in 1941 when she was age 13, before the Nazis arrived in her small town of Kwasova in the Ukraine.
Hanna is close to an older gentile neighbor, Alla Petrovich, who lets Hanna help her make her <em>pysanky</em> eggs (what we call Ukrainian Easter eggs). Later, Alla helps the Slivka family escape from the Nazis, first by giving them a cross to put on their doorway, and later, by giving them what little food and monetary help she can give.
But the Gestapo are relentless, determined to make the area *Judenfrei*, free of all Jews.
Before long, Hanna and her family have to go into hiding, first into a crude cabin deep in the woods, and later inside deep and dark underground caves. There the Slivkas stay for almost 400 days, although the Stermers stayed even longer - over 500 days!
Throughout their time of both figurative and literal darkness, Hanna’s papa counseled them to keep hopeful, not to lose faith, and not to become like their oppressors. Hanna learned from him: “Life is not good, however you are living it, if you become like those who don’t value you.” And there was an additional important incentive to carry them through. When Hanna’s mama first saw the cave and muttered, “I have never lived on dirt,” Papa said to her:
“This is what those Nazis make us do, huh? Live like barbarians. But the best revenge, my Eva, is just that - to live. . . ."
Discussion: This story that is set in the Ukraine rather than in the usual countries covered by Holocaust fiction provides a much-needed perspective on what took place in the Nazi vanguard into Russia early on in World War II. This is one of the most inspirational stories you will read, and is not at all depressing or scary in the way some stories about the Holocaust can be. Rather, it is a story of defiance and resilience, and about carving out a path not only for coping with evil, but managing, against all odds, to outlast it.
Evaluation: As the author said in her Historical Note at the end of the book about the Stermer’s experience, “their family story of survival and transcendence would not let me go.” Neither will Hanna’s story. The subject is difficult, but insofar as it really happened (though just not to these made-up characters) it is so important that people know about it.
that feels real and frighteningly immediate. The book is classified as YA but is one of those gems that adults will enjoy and would be an appropriate addition to the literature and social studies classrooms as well as the bedstand. The author's "Historical Note," perfectly expressing why this story and all stories matter, offers numerous directions for further study of real events. I was previously unaware of the heartbreaking plight of Ukranian Jews forced into caves and now, as other reviewers have noted, I am deeply and forever moved.
Author Tara Masih has crafted a haunting, heartbreaking, and beautifully written story that often took my breath away and left me emotionally drained in equal measure. Based on real-life events, this richly woven tale is historical fiction at its finest. The voice of young Hanna Slivka is pitch perfect, and what she reveals throughout the pages will break your heart, and yet it will also give you hope. A must read for those who enjoy coming-of-age stories and stories of harrowing Holocaust survival. Highly recommended ... and I would suggest having tissues close by.
Ultimately uplifting, this novel is an excellent read and a good bridge to an age-appropriate discussion about institutionalized intolerance and genocide.