Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “Claiming My Place” direct from the author Planaria Price in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
On why this story appealled to me:
When I was contacted about being on this blog tour, I must admit, I nearly declined it. Not because I wasn’t interested in the story – the reason stems from my childhood. As a young girl – an impressionable reader and a person with a sensitive heart, I was never able to read The Diary of Anne Frank – despite the nudges from my Mum and my grandparents; there was something preventing me from reading the book. I know I recognised a lot of myself in Anne – I was even her age when I re-attempted to read her words but there was an emotional reasoning in my head and heart; knowing if I walked into her world, I might have difficulty walking out knowing how she died. I had a lot of issues with death as a child and this in part could have played a role in not wanting to re-live Anne’s life as a young girl. The distance between her life and mine felt smaller somehow – when your the age of someone whose died tragically – somehow time, distance and proportional understanding of their life draws closer to your heart.
I also was frustrated by how my school teachers were avoiding talking about the war eras though they had no difficulty in speaking about the Civil War. Comparatively, I felt it was more relevant to everyone who grew up in the GenX generation to focus more on 20th Century History – from the war era straight into the heart of Civil Rights and the 1970s; than it would have been to dredge up history where both sides still were aggrieved about what happened. The relevancy of the 20th Century still had an important role in understanding our present and our future; at least, this was what I tried to reason in my arguments about a lack of proportional education for an engaged student losing interest in an education system which befitted no one due to how much was lost from being learnt.
As I researched the story itself – there is one particular reason why I said ‘yes’ to reading this story and why I knew I could handle the story I’d find within it. It has a happier ending than Anne Frank – hers is an uplifting story of a different nature; this one seeks to go into how someone survived but also found happiness after the war. I think for me, I needed this ‘extra chapter’ on a story which seeks to re-explain what was happening during Anne Frank’s living years whilst giving us an ending that is easier to swallow and accept.
There is a reason why I’ve altered the kind of war dramas I seek out to read – I used to read all sorts of them; including the guttingly convicting narratives which gave me nightmares. Why? I haven’t the foggiest clue. Something was directing me towards them and although I don’t regret reading them per se – I had to take a full step back from reading half of the war dramas I was naturally curious about reading. The one which crushed my soul and clued me into needing to make this change in selection was Citadel. I was within my first year of book blogging and although this novel opened my eyes to quite a heap of unknown history within the era in question, it also drew to my mind there are levels of reality I need to avoid finding in fiction.
Having said that – what inspired me to read Claiming My Place is knowing why Mum originally wanted me to read Anne Frank’s story. I knew why she wanted me to read it was simply a matter of a girl recognising she couldn’t read her story. I have regretted that personal choice over the years and as I’m inching towards turning thirtyten, it is nice to finally resolve this with being able to handle reading a different story which seeks to highlight the same truths within a classic I had to appreciate from afar.
In the same vein of interest, I did go to the theater to see Life is Beautiful and Saving Private Ryan; the latter not only gutted me emotionally but left me shell-shocked; in effect, it was too much to process. The former was my preferred experience of the two – guttingly realistic, emotionally powerful and at the root of the story is what truly was hard to reconcile about the second world war. It ends with a ray of hopefulness with the sombering tragedy of loss intermixed with your emotional reaction of having felt as if you had personally lived through the story. Notwithstanding the fact by the end of the film I no longer remembered it wasn’t in my native language. When other film goers complained about reading the subtitles – I still remember walking out going “What subtitles?” I was dearly invested in that film and I credit this to how Roberto Benigni wrote the story and brought his character to life in such a way as to transcend time, language and the human spirit.
Reading Claiming My Place is a daughter’s way of reconnecting to her mother’s memory of Anne Frank and of resolving not being able to read one of the most popular books for young readers.
I am grateful for this story, especially as the war eras have held a captivating impression on me since I was a young girl. I grew into a reader of war dramas & historical narratives set at the battlefields & on the home fronts; from one continent to the other – seeking the living truths of those who lived through the era and of the humbling ways in which History merits becoming known in each new generation past these marked fixtures in time which ought never become repeated.
A Junior Library Guild selection
Claiming My Place is the true story of a young Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust by escaping to Nazi Germany and hiding in plain sight.
Meet Gucia Gomolinska: smart, determined, independent, and steadfast in the face of injustice. A Jew growing up in predominantly Catholic Poland during the 1920s and ’30s, Gucia studies hard, makes friends, falls in love, and dreams of a bright future. Her world is turned upside down when Nazis invade Poland and establish the first Jewish ghetto of World War II in her town of Piotrkow Trybunalski. As the war escalates, Gucia and her family, friends, and neighbors suffer starvation, disease, and worse. She knows her blond hair and fair skin give her an advantage, and eventually she faces a harrowing choice: risk either the uncertain horrors of deportation to a concentration camp, or certain death if she is caught resisting. She decides to hide her identity as a Jew and adopts the gentile name Danuta Barbara Tanska. Barbara, nicknamed Basia, leaves behind everything and everyone she has ever known in order to claim a new life for herself.
Writing in the first person, author Planaria Price brings the immediacy of Barbara’s voice to this true account of a young woman whose unlikely survival hinges upon the same determination and defiant spirit already evident in the six-year-old girl we meet as this story begins. The final portion of this narrative, written by Barbara’s daughter, Helen Reichmann West, completes Barbara’s journey from her immigration to America until her natural, timely death. Includes maps and photographs.
Places to find the book:
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers
on 13th March, 2018
Length: 9 hours and 19 minutes (unabridged)
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers (@fsgbooks)
an imprint of Macmillan Publishing
Converse via: #WarDrama + #HistFic or #HistNov
Available Formats: Hardback, Ebook and AudiobookRead More
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: