An adeptly constructed Holocaust work based on family history.



Fishman dramatizes her mother’s World War II survival story in this debut novel.

The Netherlands, 1940. German forces have crossed the Dutch border and are seizing control of the country. The family of 5-year-old Ruth “Tutti” Lichtenstern—German Jews who had moved to Amsterdam in hopes of escaping Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies—attempts to live normally, but the clan soon gets wind from a friend that Hitler has big changes planned for the Netherlands’ Jewish businesses: “First, the firms will have to register,” and once Germans “are in control of the companies, they will ship the Jewish workers and owners to Poland.” Tutti notices changes herself: she is forced to attend a new school exclusively for Jewish students, and she must wear a yellow star whenever she is outside the house. At first, Tutti’s father’s position in the metals industry protects the family from deportation—though it doesn’t save her grandparents, who are collected during a Nazi raid. Despite her father’s efforts to keep them safe, the Lichtensterns are caught on a terrible path that leads them to the Westerbork transit camp. While there, Tutti’s father tells her he’s hidden some money in her doll and that she must keep that fact a secret (“ ‘I promise,’ she told him solemnly. ‘I’ll take care of her…and I won’t tell anyone’ ”). Eventually, the Lichtensterns are sent to Theresienstadt. After the long years of their deteriorating situation, Tutti attempts to keep a vow to her mother: “To always try to do good in the world—by speaking up when you see evil, and by behaving in a way that you know is right.” Fishman tells the tale of her mother’s family with elegance and a great sense of suspense. The choice to novelize the account, rather than present it as pure nonfiction, helps to flesh out the characters in a way that makes them more fully realized on the page. Photographs of Tutti and her family are featured throughout the work, reminding the reader that the events being recounted really happened. While some of the material will undoubtedly be disturbing for younger readers (the book jacket recommends ages 10 and up), the novel expertly captures the gradual creep of government-driven persecution in a way that should help children internalize Tutti’s story.

An adeptly constructed Holocaust work based on family history.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9908430-1-6

Page Count: 232

Publisher: MB Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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