Happy Friday, book friends! I have a wonderful YA/Adult book to share today, publishing on September 11. Some of the most meaningful, poignant books I have read involve the Holocaust, and My Real Name is Hanna will be placed on that shelf.
“I will say my real name to you for the first time. Hanna Slivka. Don’t be scared. I am still your mother. Born on February twenty-second, in the winter of 1928. Your grandmother often told me to remember this date because that is the day that God allowed me into this world to breathe my first soul breath of chilled Ukrainian air.”
Hanna Slivka is a teen living in Soviet-occupied Ukraine when Hitler’s army crosses the border. She and her family are Jewish, and the Gestapo wants the town, Kwasova, to be “free of Jews.” The book begins, however, with a beautiful setting up of the scenery and daily life of this family living in a peaceful Ukraine. I was not familiar with the culture and landscape of Ukraine, especially during this time period, so I soaked in all of the stunningly descriptive prose.
Once the army arrives, Hanna’s father is favored because he can fix things that no one else can, but eventually, their luck runs out, and they are forced to pack what they can and flee into the forest with other families. They later move to caves for more security and less exposure. This is where they stayed for over a year’s time, but not without some of the good helpers in the world contributing.
Based on true events, and with less than 5% of Ukrainian Jews surviving the Holocaust, this type of story begs to be told because there are so few around to tell it. Tara Lynn Masih’s lyrical writing illustrates the strength and sheer will of Hanna and her family to survive. Overall, My Real Name is Hanna is an emotionally-resonant story of friendship, family, and true compassion in the most dire of times.
Many thanks to the author for the finished copy to review. All opinions are my own.
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.
Sparse, resonant, and lyrical, weaving in tales of Jewish and Ukrainian folklore, My Real Name Is Hanna celebrates the sustaining bonds of family, the beauty of a helping hand, and the tenacity of the human spirit.
Have you read My Real Name is Hanna, or do you plan to? What is your most memorable story of the Holocaust? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR