Claiming My Place: Coming of Age in the Shadow of the Holocaust Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-06-17 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

" The version I had was the audiobook.It was riveting.Do read/listen to this memoir. " said.

" This is a gripping piece of non-fiction. Informative & well written. This is an excellent mid-range choice for introducing readers of all ages to a sad piece of history that we must hope we never repeat. " said.

"5 stars

This true story is well written and a real page turner. Although I grew up Jewish with Orthodox grandparents, I was really surprised at how much I didn't know about Jewish life and traditions at the time before WW2. It's a wonderful read about an incredibly strong person and an important history of what normal Jewish life was like before the Holocaust and the details of the terrors during. The afterword by the daughter, Helen, tells the often untold story of what life was like for the survivors after the War.
" said.

"A marvel of storytelling, the moreso because it is true! How amazing that a young Jewish Polish girl was able to amass the courage to hide in the belly of the beast, taking a new identity and working in Germany as her homeland is invaded and the Jews sent to camps. We read this history, up close and personal, and it will widen the eyes of young girls everywhere as they watch Basha, threatened with uncertainty, bombs, betrayals, losses of all kinds, rape threats and indignities, find the determination to survive to tell the tale. It’s a beautifully written page-turner, and, I expect, it will make a wonderful movie." said.

"I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Really more like 3.5 stars.

While I've read a number of books about the Holocaust, this is the first I've read that is a first-person account of someone who survived by posing as a non-Jew. That aspect of the book is excellently done. It's based on interviews with Basia (the main character), and the author does a good job conveying her thoughts and feelings. The first 1/3 of the book is dedicated to her early life - it starts in 1st grade, while she's in her 20s when she escapes Poland - so it's a bit of a slow start. I would have been interested to read more about her life after the war ended, and maybe less about elementary/high school. However, I just noticed when I started this review that it's a young adult book, so it makes sense that the intended audience would be more interested in her younger life.

Since it's YA, you may want to know that this book inevitably talks about the murder and violence enacted against the Jews - but the descriptions are brief and never graphic, so it's probably ok for younger kids. (maybe late elementary?)

Unfortunately, the author chose to write entirely in present tense, which I find really distracting for a historical story. It also leads to some awkward sentences when Basia tries to tell how she felt about an event years after it happened.
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"Based on the true story of Gucia Gomolinska, this book tells yet another of those almost-lost stories from the Holocaust, and I am certainly glad that it does. I'd never heard anything about someone who hid right under the Germans' noses the way she managed to do once Hitler comes into power. Gucia grew up in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland during the 1920s and 1930s. Because of her fair skin and blonde hair, she often escapes notice from those looking for Jews. Eventually as the Nazis move into Poland and force the Jews into a ghetto where food and space is hard to come by, Gucia is offered a choice to take on the identity of a Gentile and resettle in Germany until the war ends or be moved to one of the concentration camps. The author takes her time in telling Gucia's story, describing her formative years in detail as well as her political coming of age, and her dreams. Once the Nazis arrive, everything changes, and as Danuta Barbara (Basia) Tanska, she finds employment, food, and temporary safety, but always with the threat of having her actual identity uncovered. There are harrowing moments for Barbara, and when the Allies finally liberate the concentration camps, and Germany surrenders, she returns to her village to learn just how much she has lost. Still, she has survived against all odds. Barbara's daughter, Helen Reichmann West, provides readers with the rest of story and follows her once she moves to the United States. This is a rare and important story about what it was like to come of age during the Holocaust and the effects such an experience has on someone's personality. The author clearly spent a great deal of time crafting this story and trying to capture its subject's voice. I felt as though I were right alongside Gucia/Barbara all the way through the book. Perhaps the greatest triumph is that Barbara lived on and thrived in her new country, eventually dying at 91. The book contains several photographs, and readers will surely wonder about what might have happened if things had turned out differently or if Barbara had decided not to risk being caught with false identification. " said.

"I seized upon this book with great interest as it was about the town that my grandfather (himself a survivor of Auschwitz) and father grew up in (Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland). So I was super pumped about reading a book about someone who grew up in the same town and same era as my own grandfather.

The feeling didn't last long. About a third through the book, the author starts making basic spelling and translation mistakes. For example, the author writes about anti-Semitic signs at the Warsaw University where instead of the correct spelling of the Polish word for "Żyd", (with the Z having a dot on it) author claimed that the word "zhyd" was used on the sign. OK, so maybe a minor spelling mistake, perhaps and attempt by the author to anglocize a word with a difficult spelling.

But she made about 5 other errors in the first 100 pages, like "swinswo" which she claimed to mean "piggish". The Polish word "Świństwo " does indeed come from the root word "Świńia" meaning as the name suggests, swine, but not only does she spell it incorrectly, "Świństwo" is a noun and not an adjective. "Świństwo " quite literally means garbage. I don't know even know what "piggish" means.

Maybe I'm being picky, but if you're going to use the Polish accents for one word (the town name), use that convention through the entire book. I mean these are writing tips I remember from high school.

The author repeatedly refers to the protagonist's elementary school as "Maria Konopricka", which a simple google search would have given the result, "Do you mean 'Maria Konopnicka?' ".

Again, perhaps these details may mean nothing to the vast majority of readers but I personally believe that they should. Sadly, we are living in an age where the leaders of the free world would have us believe that any facts we don't agree with are simply fake news. As such, historians and authors of books based on history have an increased responsibility to be rock solid in their writing.

In the case of spellings of words and place names in another language, in the age of Google, there is simply no excuse. One incorrectly spelled word, OK, but after five or more in the first 100 pages, the credibility of the author will (and should) be called into question.

In the case of the holocaust, given the current political climate, given that the leaders of the free world are actually using words like "deportation" and "build a wall" and "special zones for illegals", putting forth what appears to be a poorly researched account of the holocaust in a young adult book is irresponsible.
" said.

"(First off I would like to point out this is more of a memoir/autobiography/biography. So it is a slower read.)

This book is unique in some aspects.

Like how it has a list of characters at the beginning. That is not something you typically see. As well as there are some pictures of the people involved included.

Now if your expecting a novel that dives right into the holocaust..... Hitler doesn't come in to play til around page 70, which is about a third of the book in.

That aside. This is a well written novel wrote in first person. It gives you her personal holocaust experience. You get the before, during, and after story. You can feel sympathy emotions for her ups and downs. Parts of the book make your heart sink. Just when you think things are finally getting better, something else happens. You can visual the progression of it. From Hitler first coming in to play, to the liberation of the people. What this book gives you, that you might not think about, is the aftermath. Life after the holocaust. What happens after the liberation. What happens when your life you once knew is gone.

Now you will have to read the book for yourself to find out. As this isn't my story to tell.

But I will say I appreciate that the novel doesn't leave you with unanswered questions, no loose ends. Ending with the daughters perspective. Adding an even more special personal touch to this book. While also including a list of the fates of others involved and a glossary of German, Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, English, and Greek words definitions.

(Don't worry you don't have to concistently look at the glossary for words you don't understand. More of an easy reference if there's a word in a chapter that your not sure the meaning.)

Thank you. To the people, who were unfortunately involved in the holocaust, willing to share their stories. You can really feel the emotions put into writing this book throughout. I can't imagine having living and than reliving such a painful experience, in order to share your story. Very powerful story well worth the read.
" said.

September 2018 New Book:

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