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My Real Name Is Hanna by Tara Lynn MasihMy Real Name Is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih
Published by Mandel Vilar Press on September 15, 2018
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 208
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

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.


My Real Name Is Hanna is a story about a small Ukrainian Jewish community’s harrowing experience during the Holocaust, inspired and informed by real life events. For that reason (among several others), I’ve had to sit with this novel for a bit before writing a review on it. As the author, Tara Lynn Masih, says in the historical note section at the end of the novel, “little did I know I would be submitting the final manuscript during a time in which the KKK and White Nationalists would march again…I dream of a day when we will no longer need Holocaust stories to remind us to be kind to each other, and to be watchful of those who aren’t.”

MRNIH is thus a tale irrevocably tied into themes of anti-Semitism and to the utterly horrible depths to which humanity can, has, and potentially will again sink. It’s a heavy read, especially when one considers the context of the story and the fact that actual Ukrainian Jewish survivors of the Holocaust numbered only five percent of their former population.

The Impossible Girl by Lydia KangThe Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang
Published by Lake Union Publishing on September 18, 2018
Genres: historical fiction, paranormal, mystery
Pages: 364
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable. Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public. Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize. Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.


“I’m not ashamed of who I am, Leah. It’s everyone else that has trouble with it.”

The Impossible Girl takes an interesting, almost fantastical premise – does Cora Lee, the protagonist, really have two hearts? – and then firmly grounds it in rich historical detail. Especially vivid are the depictions of resurrectionists (people who obtained corpses to serve as public medical dissection cadavers or even as freakshow museum anomalies) and their work in mid-nineteenth-century Manhattan. It’s a novel that asks a lot of questions about medical research, respect for the dead, “race science,” past and present misogyny, and being biracial in an America that thinks of nonwhite people as inferior.