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Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania [Kindle Edition]

Haya Leah Molnar

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Book Description

Eva Zimmermann is eight years old, and she has just discovered she is Jewish. Such is the life of an only child living in postwar Bucharest, a city that is changing in ever more frightening ways. Eva's family, full of eccentric and opinionated adults, will do absolutely anything to keep her safe--even if it means hiding her identity from her. With razor-sharp depictions of her animated relatives, Haya Leah Molnar's memoir of her childhood captures with touching precocity the very adult realities of living behind the iron curtain.

Under a Red Sky is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 402 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0374318409
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (30 Mar. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003DVG7PA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,059,712 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Tree of Life Grows in Bucharest" 7 Jan. 2011
By Sheldon Firstenberg - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enthusiastically recommend this wonderful book that was so compelling and moving, that I wanted the book to continue past the end because I cared so much about the central characters who are beginning a new and exciting chapter in their lives. This is the story of a Jewish family struggling to survive in "Cold War" Romania in the 1950's as seen through the eyes of Eva, the child in the family. I felt like I was getting an education about Communist Romania in the context of a heroic family striving to maintain its identity in the face of relentless government pressures to conform to the ideals of the totalitarian state. Haya Leah Molnar (Eva's Hebrew Name) is truly a gifted writer. I consider her a painter as well, because Haya paints memorable pictures with her words that absorb the attention of the reader. Her pictures are connected to human emotions that are windows into our very souls.
Eva's family hides her Jewish identity from her for her own protection. She gradually learns about her Jewish roots and the Torah through secretive visits to a Rabbi. Although these meetings put both Eva and her family at great risk, Eva's family is willing to chance it so Eva has the opportunity to encounter and nurture her Jewish identity. I would subtitle this book, "A Tree of Life Grows in Bucharest." Eva takes her readers along on her inspiring journey that leaves one feeling more hopeful and courageous about the possibilities for growth in a repressive society.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warts and All 6 Jan. 2011
By Susan - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A perceptive and precocious young girl grows up in a house filled with adults. And what a cast of characters they are! There is Uncle Natan, who sleeps on a cot in the dining room and suddenly decides to get married (the marriage lasts about three months, with no explanations). Then there is Aunt Puica who lives with Uncle Max in a smoke-choked bedroom referred to by Grandma as the Bat Cave, spending her days reading trashy romance novels in her underwear and puffing on cigarettes. Grandma Iulia, Grandpa Yosef, Mama (once a ballerina) and Tata, a gentle man who's hardly ever home, all share the one little girl and dote on her accordingly.

Young Eva's bedroom is separated from her parents' room by only a bookcase, a thought that would send shivers down the spine of any Freudian, but somehow Eva grows up loved and astonishingly normal, with the wise head of a much older person. She knows that her menagerie of a family cherishes her deeply and would do anything for her.

These things are important, since Eva is living in Communist Roumania in the late 1950's, where a false word might land you in prison or worse. Under a Red Sky is a glimpse into this world for us coddled souls who probably can't imagine waiting most of the day in line to purchase a dozen eggs, or, dare we hope, a chicken. It's a delightful, funny tale and the odd characters come alive in the telling. Humor and humanity trump repression.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Under a Red Sky 7 Feb. 2011
By Jewish Book World Magazine - Published on
What was Romania like in the years after the Holocaust? What was it like, living as a Jew in a Communist country during that time? In Under a Red Sky, we hear the answers to those questions, told in the childhood voice of Eva Zimmerman. Zimmerman grew up an only child in a home shared by her parents, grandparents, aunt and uncles, and didn't have a clue that she was Jewish until she turned 10. Eva's voice is believable and authentic and her portrayal of the adults around her is vivid. We share her confusion at being left uninformed of her identity by a father who barely speaks to her, a mother who scarcely divulges her former life as a ballerina and an aunt who chain-smokes in her bedroom all day. Her family is vehemently anti-communist and in hushed tones they voice their frustrations at the regime and the punitive measures imposed on the family. Once they have submitted passport applications in the hopes of leaving the country for Israel, those measures become more extreme. Eva's parents lose their jobs and her mother is followed by the Secret Service when tries to expedite the passports. At school, Eva is indoctrinated by her teacher, Comrade Popescu, on the joys of communism and the importance of being proud of her heritage. She dare not relay the opinions that surround her at home for fear of putting everyone at risk. In Under a Red Sky, Eva reveals the double life she led as a child, and the colorful personalities that surrounded her in her formative years. This book is written in a delightfully refreshing tone, combining interesting information about Communist Romania in the perspective of a Jewish child. Grades 8 - adult. Lauren Kramer
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews 27 Jan. 2011
By AJL Reviews - Published on
Under a Red Sky is a memoir that tells the little known story of Bucharest's Romanian Jews under Communism from the late 1950's to 1961. This intense first person narrative is full of immediate detail about the life of an extended family of seven adults and one child, who live in a few rooms in a house in Bucharest. Eva, the young narrator, recalls the details, sounds, sights, foods, and Romanian words that draw the reader close to her experiences. Though the narrator is ostensibly a child, the voice is the perceptive and expressive voice of an adult, accurately recalling her childhood. We follow Eva's story during the years she grew from seven to ten, when the family, after much difficulty, emigrated to Israel. Living a secular life, her family is nevertheless branded as Jewish, and subjected to governmental scrutiny, loss of their jobs, and many punitive indignities. Perseverance, courage, and complicated love and support relationships keep them sane until their final escape. Eva's connection with her beloved Grandpa Yosef, her Grandma Julia and her parents are memorable. The story moves swiftly, and the book is difficult to put down. One reads the last page with regret, wanting to know what happened next to people one has come to care for. When the book begins, Eva does not know that she is Jewish, though she hears her grandparents speak Yiddish frequently. The passage where grandpa Yosef gives Eva a mezuzah and introduces her to Hebrew letters and her previously unknown Jewish identity is strongly felt. The book includes black and white photographs of the family, some by Eva's father, Gyuri Zimmerman, which intensify its authenticity.
It is necessary to issue a caveat about designating this as a children's book. There is one chapter in which Eva's grandmother Julia graphically describes the atrocities committed against Jews in Bucharest during World War II, by the Iron Guard, the Legion of the Archangel Michael, known as the Legionnaires. The description is unbearably graphic, making the book inappropriate for children ages 10 and up, as the publisher states. This strongly suggests that the book's audience be mature young adults, 14 and older, as well as adults. Under A Red Sky is Haya Leah Molnar's first book. She is a fluent writer who has brought an unfamiliar chapter of Jewish history to life in Under a Red Sky. It is highly recommended for young adult and adult collections in Jewish libraries and public libraries, especially where there is interest in modern Jewish history and politics. Winner of a 2010 National Jewish Book Award. For grade 8 - adult.
Naomi Morse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Read 1 Mar. 2011
By Serena A - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A great read about Communist Romania and being Jewish with the hardships and adventures from a child's perspective. Read this book even if you're just interested. It will surprise and amaze you!
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