A Book Review of “I Am Terezin” by Ayesha F. Hamid

Immutable rules govern our world such as the law that no matter the time or space in which it occurs, evil committed by humans against other human beings leaves its mark, and that regardless of the amount of time it takes, the truth will always surface. These ideas, as well as others, are explored in depth in Richard D. Bank’s I Am Terezin.

With meticulous historical research and great care, Bank has painted a vivid picture of the people and personalities associated with the events that took place at Theresienstadt during the Nazi Holocaust. I Am Terezin is a revolutionary memoir – unlike others, it is written from the point of view, not of a person but, of a physical entity, the camp itself – an omniscient narrator. The voice of the camp comes alive to relay the ominous reality of itself, and it tells the reader what Theresienstadt really was, a concentration camp and not the paradise ghetto for elderly Jews the Nazis claimed it was.

The changing tone and perspective of the omniscient voice is compelling. The voice of the camp takes on many roles – a caretaker in one moment, a silent observer in another. It can be argued that the voice of the camp is none other than that of a lamenting God, unable to intercede in the world of human atrocities and forced to watch insidious actions play out. No matter the tone or perspective, the abuse, injustice, and crime which occurred at Theresienstadt is resurrected for the reader, and the reader comes to learn intimately about the lives of innocents who were forced to be bound within the walls of Terezin. Each word and sentence of I Am Terezin is written with great care, paying homage to the many who lost their lives at Theresienstadt. In taking part in the arduous undertaking of researching and telling the story of those at Terezin, Bank has completed the ultimate labor of love in tribute to his grandparents, Ludwig and Sophie Frank, who were imprisoned at but subsequently survived Theresienstadt.

Bank is masterful in his knowledge of the history of Theresienstadt, and I Am Terezin is a must read for scholars of the Holocaust, as well as those interested in bettering the human condition. Reading this book will help the vigilant to reaffirm the oath of never again. Never again should sadism be allowed to hide behind laws and systems meant to dehumanize. Never again should humanity allow the atrocities of genocide to occur. Never again should any people be persecuted for the faith they follow or for the way in which they worship the Divine.

I Am Terezin is published by Auctus Publishers (www.auctuspublishers.com) and available at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.

Erin Kelly’s Blackbird Fly Inspires – A Review by Ayesha F. Hamid

Typically a reader of adult fiction and nonfiction, I didn’t think that a middle grade novel would interest me as much as Blackbird Fly did, yet I found myself quickly flipping through the pages to find out what would happen to the book’s protagonist, Apple Yengko.

Apple and her mother left the Philippines for the United States when Apple was four; the death of Apple’s father caused the family to immigrate to America. Now attending a middle school in Louisiana, Apple is ostracized because of her ethnic background. She feels that she doesn’t have anyone who understands or relates to her. Nevertheless, Apple still has hopes and dreams. She loves music and wants to learn guitar, so she can become a rock star.

 

Blackbird Fly is an inspiring read for both children and adults alike. Erin Kelly has created a convincing world in which children isolate each other for insignificant and arbitrary reasons. In this world, we witness, through Apple, the resilience of the human spirit. This book shows children, who may be left out or bullied, that it is vitally important to keep hope alive. On the other hand, adult readers, like me, will root for Apple and in so doing give some closure to their own childhood trauma.

Blackbird Fly is published by Greenwillow Books and is available here: http://amzn.to/1YuVyot

 

 

 

The Book of Stone by Jonathan Papernick – A Review by Ayesha F. Hamid

A single event, in our lives, can make us question everything, changing beliefs we thought were permanent and moving the future towards a drastically different direction. The main character in Jonathan Papernick’s The Book of Stone, Matthew Stone, deals with precisely such a life changing event, which makes him question everything. Walter Stone, Matthew’s father and a well-known judge, passes away and leaves his son haunted by his father’s unmet expectations. While Walter Stone was alive, Matthew rebelled against everything he stood for, but after his death, Matthew changes significantly, trying to emulate everything his father was. In his effort to become more like Walter, Matthew starts interacting with his father’s associates who introduce him to new ideas about what it means to be Jewish.

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Although The Book of Stone is a work of fiction, Papernick fully immerses the reader into the book’s reality. As characters in the book consider important questions of morality and existence, the reader is also asked to consider the same questions. The Book of Stone is expertly crafted and creates a convincing plot sure to leave readers on the edge of their seats. Papernick’s use of imagery, language, and flashbacks helps to create an ever engaging reading experience. Wonderfully weaved throughout the book, well-researched historical references give the reader greater insight into Jewish history, the Holocaust, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jonathan Papernick is the author of two short-story collections, including The Ascent of Eli Israel and There Is No Other. He is the writer-in-residence at Emerson College. The Book of Stone is published by Fig Tree Books and will be available for sale on 5/12/2015.