Published by Mandel Vilar Press on September 15, 2018
Genres: historical fiction
Format: ARC, eBook
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.