My Real Name Is Hanna

My Real Name Is Hanna

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 th...

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Title:My Real Name Is Hanna
Author:Tara Lynn Masih
Rating:
Edition Language:English

My Real Name Is Hanna Reviews

  • Angela M

    “Abram Slivka (my Papa)

    Eva Slivka (my Mama)

    Hanna Slivka (14 years old, loves to read)

    Leeba Slivka (12 years old, loves to sew)

    Symon Slivka (10 years old, a really good bit who

    Loves his dog) Ovid (our dog)

    Steed (our horse)

    We all lived in this house until October 12, 1942. If you

    find this ,

    say these names out loud, please, and bury this paper

    in the yard.”

    Maybe a request for some semblance of a proper burial. Perhaps a plea for remembrance. These are the words that Hanna buries in a tin in the

    “Abram Slivka (my Papa)

    Eva Slivka (my Mama)

    Hanna Slivka (14 years old, loves to read)

    Leeba Slivka (12 years old, loves to sew)

    Symon Slivka (10 years old, a really good bit who

    Loves his dog) Ovid (our dog)

    Steed (our horse)

    We all lived in this house until October 12, 1942. If you

    find this ,

    say these names out loud, please, and bury this paper

    in the yard.”

    Maybe a request for some semblance of a proper burial. Perhaps a plea for remembrance. These are the words that Hanna buries in a tin in the Slivka family’s yard before they are forced to flee their home, their quiet, happy existence, as the Nazis move in to make the town free of Jews. This becomes a journey for survival from their life in the shtetele, this small town, their Polish and Jewish roots, in the Ukraine, to the deep of the forest and eventually to the darkness of a cave finding refuge from the darkest hearts of the Nazis. We don’t see much of the horrific things that happened to the Jews as they are rounded up and sent to camps, but we know of course , and the characters find out as the novel moves forward. They learn that railway cars take away Jews and then the Nazis don’t take them away anymore. They just shoot them as they try to escape through the forest. We do see first hand the hunger and hardship that the Slivka family, their extended family and neighbors endure. There was no food at times. They were starving until one of the men or older boys could safely leave to scrounge what they could.

    This is a beautifully written, well researched story inspired by a real family who together survived the holocaust by hiding in a cave for well over a year. This is a story of courage, of love, of family, of culture , of religious beliefs, of how it is possible to sustain hope in the face of hunger and darkness and loss. Through the beloved character of Mrs . Petrovich, one of my favorites, the kind Christian neighbor, we are reminded of the goodness of people, so many of whom aided Jews through these horrifying times. Through the characters of the Cohan brothers, we are reminded of the courage of so many who risked their lives to save the people in their community. I was struck that this was about the importance of story telling, both real and wonderfully imagined on a number of levels. When the novel begins, it is Hanna telling her story of survival to her daughter. Hanna’s beloved friend, Mrs. Petrovich, tells her stories through the beautiful eggs she decorates. The spirits of the children as well as the adults were sustained in the dark cave by the voices the children as they say “ tell me a story”. There are stories told in the cave remembering loved ones, some biblical, and some are fables of a sort - all beautifully told. Then of course there is this beautiful story told by Tara Lynn Masih encompassing all of this, itself based on a true one. While this may be geared to a YA audience, it is far from an ordinary coming of age story. I believe it’s an extraordinary story that everyone should read because it’s an imperative reminder that we can’t forget that the Holocaust happened and we can’t let it happen again.

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Mandel Vilar Press through NetGalley.

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    Some of the most meaningful, poignant books I have read have been about the Holocaust, and My Real Name is Hanna will be placed on that same 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 breath

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    Some of the most meaningful, poignant books I have read have been about the Holocaust, and My Real Name is Hanna will be placed on that same 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 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 live in the 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 a strong, 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.

    My reviews can also be found on my blog:

  • Felicia

    "It's ok to cry, Hanna...crying is a form of breathing."

    *ugly sobbing* 😩

    Narrated in the voice of 14 year old Hanna, My Real Name is Hanna is the true story of a Jewish family on their quest for survival in the Ukraine during the Holocaust. The family eventually takes refuge in underground caves leaving them to try to make some semblance of a life while being cast in complete and total darkness.

    "What is it like to take your last breath? What if the sound of it gave you away?"

    *more ugly sobbing* 😩

    "It's ok to cry, Hanna...crying is a form of breathing."

    *ugly sobbing* 😩

    Narrated in the voice of 14 year old Hanna, My Real Name is Hanna is the true story of a Jewish family on their quest for survival in the Ukraine during the Holocaust. The family eventually takes refuge in underground caves leaving them to try to make some semblance of a life while being cast in complete and total darkness.

    "What is it like to take your last breath? What if the sound of it gave you away?"

    *more ugly sobbing* 😩😩

    This is a powerful story about family, hope and ultimately the goodness of mankind.

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    I was provided an ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Amalia Gavea

    This is one of the most beautiful books of the year. Based on the true story of a Jewish family living in Ukraine during the darkest period in History, the Second World War, it is a story of fear and struggle for survival, a fight for dignity and hope that refuse to be persecuted and die. Through the eyes of Hanna, a 14-year-old girl, we find ourselves in the

    This is one of the most beautiful books of the year. Based on the true story of a Jewish family living in Ukraine during the darkest period in History, the Second World War, it is a story of fear and struggle for survival, a fight for dignity and hope that refuse to be persecuted and die. Through the eyes of Hanna, a 14-year-old girl, we find ourselves in the beautiful, haunting Ukrainian forests in a time, when the dark clouds of fascism have covered the world.

    Hanna’s land becomes a trapped, helpless animal in the hands of the worst powers in European History, the Nazis and the Soviets. Under Stalin, every religion is forbidden. A good, useful member of the ‘’community’’ is made to show obedience to the State. Exclusively. Nothing else is sacred. There is no way out for the people and strife leads them to believe that the Nazis will be able to make things better. So, on the one side, Hitler is waiting. On the other, Stalin is in power. The country is trapped between two insane tyrants.

    The dark atmosphere is interrupted by the beautiful descriptions of a nature that is both mesmerizing and unsettling. It will soon be destroyed by the black boots of demons. It was a relief and a joy to read about the traditions, the customs, the prayers of the Jewish community. The folktales shared by grandmothers and mothers to the new generations, tales of courage that help them stand as bravely as they can. There are also extensive references to the pagan traditions of the land, before the coming of Christianity, particularly reflected in the Easter customs. Even the nightly forest, dark and full of dangers, holds a certain appeal. Tara Lynn Masih painted a background that is menacing and fascinating.

    The worst consequence of war is the way in which communities are torn apart. People who used to live together in peace and understanding become enemies prepared to jump at their neighbour’s throat. There is a particularly striking scene in which an old poster of Stalin is covered by a brand new poster of Hitler. For me, it was the saddest moment in the story, showing the lack of any kind of escape for the citizens. Another memorable moment -out of many- is the sequence of atrocities carried out as the immortal creations of Bach and Beethoven are echoing like a soundtrack from Hell. I don’t know whether this is historically accurate but it definitely makes you wonder how war destroys every sense of beauty and dignity and kindness in enemies and victims alike.

    Masih does a wonderful job in creating a claustrophobic, threatening atmosphere throughout the story. The nightmare of living in constant fear, waiting for that knock on the door that will lead you to Hell. The prejudice, the deliberate spreading of hostility against innocent people, how Populism always finds the soil to grow when the economic situation is shaky and no country is immune to this vile disease.

    In my opinion, this novel is on par with

    . Perhaps, even better. The characters are extremely well-written and the writer didn’t resort to overtly violent descriptions for shock value. There is violence and cruelty but in a way that isn’t gory. There is no need for over-the-top descriptions. We all know what happened. We all know what war brings, even the fortunate generations that had no first-hand experience of what war really means. Still, there is hope. Every war eventually ends and nations that once were enemies now work together for peace and prosperity. This is how it should be. History should help us remember so as not to repeat the wrongs of the past. It isn’t there to prolong enmities between countries for all eternity. This is the only way to create some kind of sense in this tortured world….

    Many thanks to Mandel Vilar Press and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

    My reviews can also be found on

  • (Bern) Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas

    One of the most touching aspects of this book for me was the strength, determination, loyalty and love each of the characters showed during such a bleak and desperate time. It isn’t easy to sustain positivity during such a horrifying time. Yet,

    One of the most touching aspects of this book for me was the strength, determination, loyalty and love each of the characters showed during such a bleak and desperate time. It isn’t easy to sustain positivity during such a horrifying time. Yet,

    In

    , Hanna Slivka is a young teen forced to leave her home and life as she knows it behind when the Germans cross the border into the Ukraine intent on making the land "Jew free". Along with members of her family and others from her village, she is forced into hiding in underground caves. There they live in the damp and cold darkness with meager amounts of food and little to no real comforts for over a year.

    For a book focused on a time filled with such bleakness, cruelty and despair the story was beautiful, almost lyrical in its descriptions and emphasized compassion. It focused on the people that put their lives at risk to help others.

  • Carol

  • Debra

    **This book was inspired by real Holocaust events

    "I have lost everything that can ever be lost. I have given everything that can ever be given." - my family's MA - Holocaust Survivor

    Hanna Slivka is almost fourteen years old when her entire world is turned upside down. Hitler's army has crossed into the Soviet occupied Ukraine. They are intent on making the land "free of Jews." Hanna's life goes from exploring with her siblings and helping her neighbor decorate psyanky eggs, to having rocks throw

    **This book was inspired by real Holocaust events

    "I have lost everything that can ever be lost. I have given everything that can ever be given." - my family's MA - Holocaust Survivor

    Hanna Slivka is almost fourteen years old when her entire world is turned upside down. Hitler's army has crossed into the Soviet occupied Ukraine. They are intent on making the land "free of Jews." Hanna's life goes from exploring with her siblings and helping her neighbor decorate psyanky eggs, to having rocks thrown at her on her walk home from school, to hiding in the walls of her home when the army comes, to eventually leaving everything behind to seek safety in the forest and eventually in an underground cave with several other families.

    The caves, although they provide protection, do not let in any sunlight, fresh air and keeps them in perpetual darkness both literally and figuratively. They do not know what is going on in the outside world, until their members must leave to find food and hopefully trade with nearby farmers.

    This book is a well written account of what it was like to live/survive during the Holocaust. Where neighbors either helped neighbors or turned on them. Where hatred and racism tore away people's morals and values. A time when fear and hatred ruled the day. But in the darkness of the caves, humanity existed. People helped people, lives were lived, hope remained, and the true meaning of what makes a home is learned.

    This is a timely book as there are so very few Holocaust survivors left in the world. My Ma passed away in 2017. Books such as this one keeps their stories and memories alive. No one truly knows what he/she is capable of until they are placed to the test. Readers may ask "could I survive this?" I hope none of us ever have to find out.

    As I mentioned this book is well written and contains beautiful descriptions of nature. I enjoyed Hanna's relationship with her next-door neighbor and both of their openness and interest in each other's lives. This book showed the strength of family bonds but also showed the strength of friendship and how small acts of kindness can not only make someone's day but can also save a life. This is a wonderful book about courage, survival, and family for readers of all ages but is geared for the YA population.

    A 2018 Skipping Stones Honor Award Book

    Thank you to Mandel Vilar Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All of the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

    Read more of my reviews at

  • Rose (Traveling Sister)

    I read this with the Traveling Sisters, and we were all swept away by the tale of Hanna and her family. Thanks to NetGalley/Mandel Vilar Press for this ARC.

    This was 4.5 because a few plot points could've used more attention, but it was just too beautiful to not round up.

    begins in 1941, when Hanna is just 13 years old. While Jews and Gentiles live in relative harmony in her family’s shtetele, or village, the German SS looms near. Stalin, though oppressive in his own ways, a

    I read this with the Traveling Sisters, and we were all swept away by the tale of Hanna and her family. Thanks to NetGalley/Mandel Vilar Press for this ARC.

    This was 4.5 because a few plot points could've used more attention, but it was just too beautiful to not round up.

    begins in 1941, when Hanna is just 13 years old. While Jews and Gentiles live in relative harmony in her family’s shtetele, or village, the German SS looms near. Stalin, though oppressive in his own ways, allows Jews to live here if for no other reason than to defy the Nazis. As the war draws nearer to their back door, the laws, as well as the rations, get tighter.

    Inevitably, the Germans invade. What follows are descriptions of the many horrors we all know occurred but are nevertheless gut-wrenching to read about: all Jews and those who help them are killed on sight. Women and children are not spared. Families are forced to flee into bunkers, forests, and caves. Even if the Nazis don’t kill them, nature and starvation probably will.

    is structured as a story Hanna tells to her daughter, so we know that she survives. Small reliefs such as this become critical to the narrative: a small bite of food, a ray of light, a meager doll to cherish. Hanna, her family, and a group of other Jews from her shtetele struggle to survive for several years, moving from one dangerous hideout to the next, growing weaker by the day.

    I enjoyed this book for so many reasons, including the unflappable hope that the exiled group retains throughout their three death-defying years together. Summoning the stories of their ancestors and religious beliefs, they are able to push through month after month of darkness, starvation, and fear.

    What this book lacks in length, it makes up for with colorfully layered and descriptive prose. While Masih doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of the Holocaust, she does point out even the smallest points of beauty, which is likely how those in hiding had to think.

    In addition to the descriptions of nature, there’s also a major focus on food. For starters, the Jewish culture is rich with flavorful, hearty family meals. Secondly, Hanna and the families she hides with are unable to eat anything for long stretches of time, much less their traditional dishes. I'd suggest this for lovers of language who are looking for a quick but educational read.

    This book inspired me to try out some yummy recipes for Rosh Hashanah. Check out my full review and my attempt to cook cholent

    !

  • Diane S ☔

    STRUGGLE AND SURVIVAL in the Ukraine. Due to shifting borders, Hanna and her family, have been considered, Poles, Austrisns and Ukrainians. Changing tides once again threaten as the Germans are heading their way. As a Jewish family they are close, and close to many of their non Jewish neighbors. It is time though for them to go into hiding, as their village is to become Jewish free, as news reaches them of what is happening to the Jews who are taken.

    Meant for. YA audience, the violence is there

    STRUGGLE AND SURVIVAL in the Ukraine. Due to shifting borders, Hanna and her family, have been considered, Poles, Austrisns and Ukrainians. Changing tides once again threaten as the Germans are heading their way. As a Jewish family they are close, and close to many of their non Jewish neighbors. It is time though for them to go into hiding, as their village is to become Jewish free, as news reaches them of what is happening to the Jews who are taken.

    Meant for. YA audience, the violence is there but tampered down a bit, not all horrors written. Enjoyed the format of this, as a grown woman and mother, Hanna tells her story of the time, the years, her family and others had to hide. Based on an actual family and their experiences makes this even more poignant. The author did a wonderful job staying true to the thoughts and feelings of a fourteen years old girl. I loved the characters Alla, a non Jewish woman who comes to their aid in many ways, as do a few other at great risk to themselves. Of course more turned away or reported than tried to help. The closeness and love, faith shown by this family was beautiful admidst horrific times.

    The authors note makes clear how well researched this book was, and explained more of the historic events in this region. It also tells what is fact, what it was based on, and what was fiction. All very well done. A good book for young adults to read as an important introduction to the Holocaust.

    ARC from Netgalley.

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