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Cover of Anya's War
Anya's War
$16.99
Hardcover
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Hardcover
  • Feb.01.2011
  • 9780312370930
  • Feiwel and Friends

Andrea gives an overview of the book:

At first Anya Rosen's life in Shanghai is privileged and relatively carefree: she has crushes on boys, fights with her mother, and longs to defy expectations just like her hero, Amelia Earhart. Then Anya finds a baby, a newborn abandoned on the street. Amelia Earhart goes missing. And it becomes dangerously clear that no place is safe—not for Jewish families like the Rosens, not for Shanghai's poor, not for adventurous women pilots. Based on the author's family history, ANYA'S WAR is about finding strength within, when the world spins out of control.
Read full overview »

At first Anya Rosen's life in Shanghai is privileged and relatively carefree: she has crushes on boys, fights with her mother, and longs to defy expectations just like her hero, Amelia Earhart. Then Anya finds a baby, a newborn abandoned on the street. Amelia Earhart goes missing. And it becomes dangerously clear that no place is safe—not for Jewish families like the Rosens, not for Shanghai's poor, not for adventurous women pilots. Based on the author's family history, ANYA'S WAR is about finding strength within, when the world spins out of control.

Read an excerpt »

 

 

 

Prologue

 Anya inspected the first black page of her Book of Moons where she’d affixed the last photo Papa snapped in Odessa: of Anya shivering next to Mama and Georgi in the cold, in front of their old linden tree. Last January, she was still polite Anya of Pushkin Street, a good girl who talked a little too much but knew when to keep her mouth shut. For example, when her grandmother Babushka’s dumplings weren’t as delicious as their cook, Valentina’s; or when the secret police was patrolling her neighborhood because spies had reported anti-communist activity; or in case Mama was eavesdropping outside her new bedroom in Shanghai and might overhear her nightly prayer to God: Help me tell my mother, former diva of the Odessa Opera, I am too afraid to sing onstage.

     The two black corners holding the family photo were slightly crooked, the way she had left them before her birthday lunch this afternoon. She had constructed the booby trap so if Babushka was snooping again, Anya would catch her. Babushka couldn’t leave anything out of place. In her rage for order, she would have reset the corners — despite Anya’s warning on page one:

To You, 

who wish to spy

 on my fond memories and deepest thoughts,

 Read at your own risk! 

Anya Rosengartner 

     Papa had cut off the end of the family name when the six of them arrived at the Shanghai Custom House. “For a fresh start,” he announced to Mama, who covered her face with her manicured hands. At the time, Papa hadn’t admitted to her he was also changing his first name to Jake, to replace Joshua, in case Stalin’s men crossed the Yellow Sea to track him down and make good on their threats. Mama refused to sign the immigration papers until Papa promised she could join the Russian Music Society, a troupe that didn’t compare with the Odessa Opera but at least she would sing her favorite arias to refugee audiences. Anya’s grandfather, Dedushka didn’t have to bribe his wife. Whatever he pushed under Babushka’s nose to sign, she signed, if this meant a speedier route to her rocking chair where she spent most of the day crocheting.

     Writing outside on her terrace was how Anya prevented her brain from bursting. Once she transformed a problem into a memory, and wrote it down, she could imagine a happier outcome, especially with the river in full view. The string of white letters, like pearls on paper, represented hope. Li Mei, the family cook — who wasn’t just a servant to Anya — hinted that the secret way to solve a problem was to think of it as a river. Wu wei. Let the water run its own course.

     Writing was in Anya’s bones. Papa was a journalist. Mama wrote invitations. Papa’s father, Zayde, had long ago held the title of shtetl scribe of Gomel. He was the keeper of the village Yizkor, the Book of Memory. Zayde had inscribed the huge book with the name and job of every man in the village, and the dates of their bar mitzvahs, weddings, pilgrimages, births of each child, and eventually, their deaths. Papa agreed with Anya that the men should have remembered the women, too.

     Anya dipped her fountain pen in white ink and wrote on the next blank page: July 22, 1937. In the upper right corner, where she kept track of how many days had passed since Amelia Earhart’s plane disappeared, she wrote the number: 19. The whole world assumed the Electra plane had crashed and the first woman to fly along the equator on her journey around the world was dead. One week after the early reports, Anya asked Papa what he thought happened to Amelia Earhart. ‘You’re asking me, Anush? You’re the one who follows her every move.’ They had been sitting on a bench in the garden as the moon rose, waiting for the summer constellations to brighten. What if the tide carried Amelia to Phoenix Island and she is lying in the warm sand, under the same moon, stargazing. Would she be lost? As though reading her mind, Papa said, in the same tone he used when she awoke in the middle of a nightmare, ‘If she can see Orion’s Belt and The Little Dipper, she is fighting for her life. Where there’s life, there’s hope.’

     Anya began writing her daily entry below the date, leaving blank the customary spot to the right for her sketch of tonight’s moon phase. 

 

 

 

Today is my 14th birthday and my best present, besides my new bike, is the moon — the Hungry Ghost Moon — will be full tonight. Li Mei put moon cakes on the altar to placate the ghosts so I wouldn’t have to share my chocolate birthday cake. Did you know that when you plant wishes under a full moon they have the best chance of coming true?

andrea-alban-gosline's picture

Dear Reader,
     As a teenager, I listened to the exotic, terrifying, and comical accounts of my Jewish father’s childhood in the French Quarter of Shanghai, China. My grandfather, Issai Abramovitch, formerly a high-ranking government official in Odessa, Russia, had refused to join the Communist party, a decision that provoked a death threat. He packed up his family and they fled to Shanghai, a safe haven to which many Jewish families escaped religious persecution.

When my father, Yan Abramovitch, was eight years old, he found a Chinese baby girl abandoned on a curb and carried her home.This was the seed of Anya's War.

About the Shanghai Jews:
In 1937, four thousand Jews lived in Frenchtown, soon to become a "solitary island" in the midst of Japanese-occupied China. Their ranks swelled to twenty thousand with the influx of Eastern European Jews escaping Hitler’s march across Europe. As doors closed all over the world to desperate families, Shanghai customs officials did not require a visa to enter the city. But soon, the Japanese herded the refugees into the Hongkew Ghetto for the remainder of World War II. My family, and other Russian Jews who had arrived before 1937, were fortunate; the occupiers allowed them to remain in their comfortable homes. They snuck food, reading material, clothing, and blankets into the ghetto, bringing small comforts and subsistence to the Jews who fled the Nazis. This is a little known chapter of Jewish holocaust history. 
    
About the Jewish tombstone project:
During the Cultural Revolution in 1967, protesters razed the four Jewish cemeteries and scattered the marble tombstones throughout villages on the outskirts of Shanghai. The people used them as washing stones and for bridging shallow creeks. In 2003, an Israeli journalist discovered “Dedushka’s” cracked tombstone leaning against a hut in Minzhu 6 village. The relocation project workers have since gathered eighty markers and are drafting plans to construct either a New Jewish Cemetery of Shanghai (possibly in a section of the Shanghai Buddhist Cemetery) or an exhibition in the inner yard of Ohel Moshe, the ghetto synagogue, now a Jewish museum. While vandals continue to assault Jewish cemeteries throughout Europe, the Chinese people guard the tombstones with respect and reverence.
To see a photo of my great-grandfather's tombstone, visit the web site: www.shanghaijewishmemorial.com. Click “Arzich, Israel.”
    

About Andrea

Andrea Alban (a.k.a. Gosline) is the author of inspirational parenting books and children's picture books and novels. She is a native San Franciscan raised in a neighborhood teeming with big backyards and adventurous children. She cultivated her appreciation of nature during...

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