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My Real Name Is Hanna MP3 CD – Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
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About the Author
Tara Lynn Masih is author of the critically acclaimed short story collection Where the Dog Star Never Glows and founding series editor of The Best Small Fictions. She has received multiple book awards, including a 2018 Skipping Stones Honor Award for My Real Name Is Hanna, her debut novel.
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While this story is a piece of fiction, the author has based it on a true incident of the Stermer family who survived the war living in such caves for over 500 days, a family who survived intact in a country where only 5 per cent and region where only 2 per cent of Jews survived. This is a very hard book to read and yet such an important one, for it brings us face to face with perhaps the ugliest side of humanity, as well as I guess, the best side. While the Slivkas do not see the worst of the Nazi atrocities, what little they see or hear of is also something that words can’t really describe. (I couldn’t help but wonder, one would dub Hitler as ‘mad’ at the least for the way his warped mind worked, but what about those hundreds of thousands who followed in his footsteps and perpetuated unspeakable atrocities? What is worse, as the author too writes in her note at the end, is human beings don’t seem to have learnt from this and continue to persecute on the basis of religion, of skin colour, of race.) The hardships (too mild a word, really) the family and their friends face in having to live with so little, in circumstances that we would wish on no living creature, and always having to look over their shoulder, perpetually being in fear of their lives is something that one can’t even imagine. What immense courage it must have taken to have the will to fight on, to live on, when literally everything seems against you, the invaders but also people that were of their own place, and the very the circumstances in which you are forced to live—disease, sickness, and malnutrition posing equally serious threats of their own. Each page one reads, each day that one reads of is heart-breaking. But there is hope in that for all of those who were cruel, who turned against their own, there were as well a few, who stood by them, facing as much danger of being caught and punished. They at least show that there is some ‘human’ left in human beings.
But amidst all of this suffering and pain and heartbreak, there was something that kept the families’ lives somewhat normal, and brought a ray of pleasantness into the reader’s experience and this was how rich in culture this book was. The festivals that the Slivkas observed (now so much more familiar to me since I read All-of-a-Kind Family), the birthdays, were something, that even if could not be observed openly or fully as they were before, gave them something to hold on to, something that made life more liveable perhaps, though later, when food and resources becoms more and more scarce, these too are no longer there. But I loved the descriptions of these in the initial parts of the book as I did those of the local culture, Alla Petrovich’s egg-painting (pysanky), the local parades and festivals, and daily life.
I haven’t read many books with a holocaust theme (only Anne Frank’s Diary, really), mostly because I know how heart-rending they will be (and how hard to handle), but I realise, it is also so very important to read them, to face how low human being can fall, how little they deserve the superiority they assume, though there are those in every circumstance, who certainly do deserve every accolade, who are really ‘human’. This is certainly one such books and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
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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.
Ultimately uplifting, this novel is an excellent read and a good bridge to an age-appropriate discussion about institutionalized intolerance and genocide.
One of the most touching relationships in this book is between our young Jewish protagonist, Hanna, and her elderly Christian neighbor, Alla, who takes on a somewhat grandmotherly role to Hanna. Hanna’s parents don’t entirely approve of the work which she does for Alla, assisting her in decorating pysanky, a kind of Ukrainian Easter egg which is intricately decorated and rich with symbolism. At one point in the story, Alla gifts Hanna with a pysanka decorated with symbols from Jewish folklore, a gesture which speaks to a deep abiding love and the mutual respect they have for one another’s cultures and beliefs.
Hanna’s father examines the bird painted on the egg and speculates on the meaning behind it. Perhaps it is a phoenix, which would symbolize patience, or perhaps it is the Ziz, which would be a symbol of protection.
"'I do not know which bird Alla has painted for you, or what she is trying to say. Perhaps both. Have patience, and be protected.'
His large hand is on mine, placing the egg back carefully in the cradle of my palm.
Alla finally found a bridge."
This passage is, in a lot of ways, the crux of the novel to me. Alla and Hanna connect, not by ignoring their differences, but by embracing them, finding ways to bridge the gap, and a mutual habit of never addressing one another with a sense of superiority. This merging of cultural traditions in a time of sharp division and iniquity was a poignant symbol of hope in the fundamental goodness of people.
There is a lot of darkness in this book; it is a YA book, so it avoids going into grisly detail about some of the worst of Nazi atrocities, but it is honest and clear about the fact that Hannah and her family are facing the imminent threat of death. They endure unspeakable hardship, sustained in large part by their love for one another. They have lost their home, almost all of their possessions, and any sense of security in their own country, but familial love endures as they hold on by a thread.
Inspired by a true story of a family that survived the Holocaust by hiding out underground, this novel is a timely reminder of all that’s at stake when we fail to acknowledge the humanity of the Other. Above all else, we must value kindness and connection.
"God be with you. We pray differently, no? But I think we pray for the same things."