Title: My Real Name is Hanna
Author: Tara Lynn Masih
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publisher: French Flaps
Date published: September 11th 2018
Page Count: 208
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.
This is a beautifully written novel based on a true story of a Jewish family surviving the Holocaust. By the end of 200 pages, you truly feel like you’ve gone on a journey that leaves you a long-lasting impression.
The story is told in the perspective of Hanna, the older child of a Jewish family. Hanna has a beautiful narrating voice that holds so much innocence and hope. Although the story takes place in the dark times of the Holocaust, it focuses a lot on faith, courage, and family.
This was my first time reading about what it was like for Jews in Ukraine during the Holocaust and I enlightened by the Jewish celebrations and traditions. It was really interesting reading about Jewish folklore and traditions that were passed down generations after generations. The cultural aspect of the book was truly appreciative and well researched.
Because the story was quite short, the plot picked up pace from the very start. Most chapters are filled with action and movement. Thus, it also meant there were fewer character developments. Other than noticing Hanna maturing through the story, most of the other characters were quite one dimensional. That’s not to say that readers don’t become attached to them. Rather, while reading the book, you worry for the family as well and can feel the grief and joy emanating from the book.
What’s amazing is that Tara Lynn Masih is able to bring the story to life without exposing readers to the horrors of the war. With haunting descriptions of the Ukranian woods and beautifully spoken stories, readers are taken on a journey hardship, struggle, and survival.
My Real Name is Hanna is a wonderful read that gives you another perspective of the Holocaust. Filled with insights of Jewish tradition and culture, you also gain an appreciation for their faith as well. The story also shows how people of different faiths can come to an understanding, like the friendship between Hanna and her elder Christian neighbour, Alla.
“God be with you. We pray differently, no? But I think we pray for the same things.”
The ability for them to find a bridge between their differences was a beautiful touch to the novel and portrays the hope in humanity and goodness in people.
I believe this is another beautiful book that is really important for our generation and to show why history should not be repeated.