Congratulations! My Sister’s Eyes has been selected by our indie editors to be featured in the Indie section of the Kirkus Reviews Magazine -“The Rebel Issue: Special Coverage of Writers and Characters Who Break All the Rules” April 1, 2019. This magazine is sent out to over 5,000 industry professionals (librarians, publishers, agents, etc.). Less than 10% of our Indie reviews are chosen for this, so it's a great honor. From Tatiana Arnold, Kirkus Reviews Representative.
Are the editors thinking of Aristides de Sousa Mendes “The Angel of Bordeaux?”
Click to read: My Sister’s Eyes - Kirkus Review
Halperin, Joan Arnay. My Sister’s Eyes: a Family Chronicle of Rescue and Loss During World War II.
Gr. 5-12. AJL Reviews by Joyce Levine, May/June 2018
My Sister’s Eyes: A Family Chronicle of Rescues and Loss During Word War II - Official Review at Online Book Club. Could have been a 4 Star review, but for some punctuation marks. Those are the rules!
inaramid , the OnlineBookClub reviewer chosen to review My Sister’s Eyes , loved it!
She even went above and beyond and sent suggestions for the edits. Have you ever heard of such a kindness from a reviewer?
Well, Joan went right to work and cleared up all the stumbling blocks. She sent a message of gratitude to the reviewer via Scott Hughes, the director of this one million plus member organization. Those are also the rules - no direct contact between author and reviewer - and Scott forwarded the message to inaramid.
Read inaramid’s reaction. at the very bottom.
ONLINEBOOKCLUB - The Following is an official review of "My Sister's Eyes" by Joan Arnay Halperin.
Book with Cover - 3 out of 4 stars
All of us have family stories — the fairy tale of how our parents met, an anecdote about the day we were born, memories of trips we’d taken, and accounts of all other milestones in our lives. In My Sister’s Eyes, Joan Arnay Halperin employs a combination of short narratives, family photographs, letters, and other documents to chronicle her family's story — a moving tale of escape, survival, and loss that took place against the bleak backdrop of World War II.
Joan’s parents, Ignas Krakowiak and Hala Kaplan, met in Lodz, Poland on a blind date and got married in 1935. Amidst the threat of an invasion from Nazi Germany, the couple started their life together, relocating to Brussels, Belgium where they welcomed the birth of a daughter. When war finally struck, the fledgling family escaped through France, Spain, and Portugal, getting stranded in an evacuee camp in Jamaica before eventually securing passage to Brooklyn, New York. Their safety, however, came at a huge price, with the family suffering a tragic blow before reaching their journey’s end. More than a decade later, a fortuitous encounter with a fellow Polish immigrant revealed a family secret that inspired Joan to write this book.
As a narrative nonfiction written for young adults, My Sister’s Eyes vividly depicts the horror that beset the persecuted peoples in Europe during World War II. So much of the past has been lost to today’s youth, with events reduced to mere chapters in a history book and recalled only when needed for a test in school. Photographs and letters have a way of bringing the past to life, and the book’s use of combined textual and visual elements made for a very visceral and immersive read. One picture, in particular, stood out in my mind — a road sign that read, “Jews Unwanted.” It’s a potent reminder of the vilest facets of human nature, but through this “momentary triumph of evil,” we find tremendous inspiration in the goodness shown by others. A noteworthy example recounted in the book is the defiance of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul General who (against orders from his own president) issued visas to anyone fleeing the war. Sousa Mendes’ bravery shows us that it’s never easy to do the right thing, but doing so might just save thousands of lives.
As a family memoir, My Sister’s Eyes highlights the human bonds and relationships forged through collective suffering. Joan notes, “After the Holocaust good friends rose to the status of aunt and uncle, since so many of the real ones were gone.” The narrative puts a human face on the plight of refugees and immigrant families, particularly the long and difficult road it took for them to find a new home. Apart from demonstrating to young readers the concepts of conscience and moral courage, the book also invites discussion on the value of diversity and the importance of our shared humanity.
I wanted to give My Sister’s Eyes the full score. However, two points compelled me to reduce the rating to 3 out of 4 stars. First, the story’s structure diminished the emotional impact of the family secret. As it can be inferred already from the start, I wish Joan had started with the revelation itself before proceeding to bring the pieces together. Second, there were several missing punctuation marks and other typographical errors throughout the text that detracted from the flow of reading. A round of editing should easily clear this up.
My Sister’s Eyes is perfect for anyone who wants to revisit the past from a refugee family’s perspective. Young readers, in particular, will gain a greater appreciation of history from this memoir. Apart from lending insight into a dark period in humanity’s past, Joan has also shared a vital piece of her family’s history.
I feel very privileged to have read their story.
My Sister's Eyes
View: on Bookshelves
Comments by IamShing » 23 Mar 2019, 03:05
It is intriguing how an author with such tragic and outrageous past able to write a narrative about her previous life.
I adored how her parents fought over their relationship despite the dangers and threats they had faced. World War II reminds us of how cruel the world could be and I admire it most that her parents --somehow in their way survived and made ot through whatever.
While reading the review, I am interested with this piece regardless of the points deducted.
I think the message os more important.
Thanks for the review.
There is cathartic value in writing about the struggles of the past. The book serves to honor the memory of a beloved family member as well as recognize the bravery and kindness of certain people (most notably, Sousa Mendes) who helped the family escape.
The author's parents do deserve much praise - the father, for his ingenuity and foresight, and the mother, for her silent strength. The cruelty of war, as you said, is disheartening to read about. But this made the rare kindness shown by certain people so much more emotional. These parts of the narrative moved me to tears.
The reduction in the rating was unfortunate. Although the mentioned errors were quite minor, the number exceeds 10, so the system will not allow me to rate it a perfect score anyway.
Thank you for your comments!
Post by inaramid» 26 Mar 2019, 00:36
Other comments that were left out can be found using link.
inaramid’s NOTE: A huge "Thank You!" and "God Bless You!" to Ms. Joan Arnay Halperin.
The site has just passed on a message of gratitude from the author herself for this review. What makes me really happy as a reviewer is when the input and notes I've made have somehow helped an author in any way. To this end, I've been informed that the errors mentioned in the review have already been rectified, which should definitely make this book a 4-star read.
“All's Well That Ends Well” William Shakespeare
Joan recommends that all persons interested in the fate of #refugees during #WWII visit the "Frontier of Peace" Museum in Vilar Formoso. On a personal note: If you do go, please take a minute to admire the token of friendship from a ‘not so’ ordinary Portuguese citizen, Alberto Malafaia, to the Krakowiaks, a family of Polish-Jewish refugees.
@marcelorebelo_ with Joan reading from My Sister’s Eyes in front of the #FigueiradaFoz panel at the inauguration of the Fronteira da Paz Museum, August 2017.
Purim - 5779
The Parashah commentary is by Rabbi Peter Tarlow
Forwarded by Ainsley Henriques - United Congregation of Israelites - Kingston, Jamaica - Support @CornerstoneJamaica
This coming week we will be celebrating the Festival of Purim (March 20 is Purim Eve). To get ready for Purim we now turn our attention to one of the Bible's most interesting books, Megillat-Esther, or as it is know in English translation: The Book of Esther. In the original Hebrew, Esther is not considered a "sefer" (book) but rather a "megillah" (scroll). It is one of five small (single readings) scrolls to be contained in Hebrew scripture's final sections, called collectively Ktuvot (Writings).
Megillat-Esther is unique in a number of ways. It is the only "book" in Hebrew scripture in which G-d is never mentioned. The book also has the longest sentence in the Hebrew Bible. Additionally, the book’s plot takes place outside of Israel. The setting is in the city of Shushan. Some scholars believe Shushan to be the Hebrew form of the name Susa, a city now located in present day Iran. Other scholars wonder if Shushan is more imaginary than real, a place that exists everywhere and at the same time: no where.
This brief narrative (in modern literature it would be called a novelette or even a short soap opera) tells the story of the evil Haman, the saintly Mordecai, the beautiful heroine Esther, and a king Ahasuerus, who does not seem very bright or knows his own mind.
Biblical scholars have long debated the text's accuracy. Its interpretations range from those who believe that Megillat-Esther recounts an historical event to those who believe that Mordecai may have dreamt the entire episode. Perhaps the book's accuracy of detail is far less important than its multiple messages. The Book of Esther provides us with a perfect example of what the rabbis called "Sinat Chinam" or "hatred for the sake of hatred."
In this short book each character is flawed. For example, Haman, symbolizes the person who transforms his/her personal grudges into national hatreds. Although Haman has come to be the symbol of hatred, we cannot blame him alone for the tragedies that follow. The king must also be blamed. It is king Ahasuerus who provides no oversight. The king could have refused Haman's requests but instead chose political laziness and double-talk leading to the deaths of thousands of innocent peoples.
In this comedy of errors we see how racial hatred leads to death and much how words matter. In that way it is a lesson for moderns who have replaced political dialogue with hate, and where those on both sides of the political spectrum have theologized politics and, each in their own way, approach fascism.
The book of Esther also teaches us that we can get beyond our petty hatreds and political stupidity. This novelette asks us to understand that G-d has given each of us the capacity to steer through troubled waters to safer shores, to go beyond sheer partisanship and engage with those with whom we disagree.
The Book of Esther reminds us that life is filled with challenges, trials, and tribulations. Our duty is to learn how to listen, to engage, to go beyond certainties, to gamble on life, and to find the ways needed to defeat the Hamans of hatred with the hope of love. A task that is as vitally important in these troubled days as it was when the Book of Esther was written. What do you think?
Ainsley Cohen Henriques and David Matalon, both leaders of the United Congregation of Israelites of Kingston, Jamaica, helped me to restore the grave of my beloved sister Yvonne in 2014. At the time of Yvonne’s untimely death at four years old in June of 1942, there was no rabbi nor prayer books, just two devastated parents, Hala and Ignas Krakowiak. at her grave site in the Orange Street Cemetery. (Photos taken 1942, 1960 and June 2014 below).
Thank you to @GaryRobinson (see video below) who was there in November of 2016 to document the Gibraltar Evacuee Camp, a camp created for 1500 Gibraltarians who were evacuated by the British before the fighting would begin in the Mediterranean. Prof. Diana Cooper-Clark organized a reunion of refugees, who were sent to the camp for their protection in 1942, on the occasion of her book launch in November 2016. Inez Baker, fifteen years old at the time she was evacuated to the camp, was the only one of the original evacuees who was able to attend the reunion. She came with her two sons to remember.
I represented my parents, my aunt and uncle and my sister. The Kaddish that was never said at the time of her death was intoned by a very special man, Eli Gabay (see minute 4:14 of the video attached below). I want to thank Diana’s best friend Margaret Thompson (former director of the Jewish Book Fair of Toronto), Anna Ruth Henriques (talented jewelry artist), Amy Wachtel (the soulful radio-jocky Night Nurse), Kathryn Kates Casavant (delightful Canadienne journalist), Inez Baker and her family and Robert Jacobvitz (Chair of the @SousaMendesFdn Advisory Council) for honoring me with their participation on that memorable day.
Approximately 20 persons (and maybe more) were among the evacuees who were rescued first by Aristides de Sousa Mendes, and a second time by the JOINT (American Joint Distribution Committee) and supported by the HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society).
For more about Jamaica:
Dreams of Re-Creation in Jamaica: The Holocaust, Internment, Jewish Refugees in Gibraltar Camp, Jamaican Jews and Sephardim by Prof. Diana Cooper-Clark
Aristides de Sousa Mendes was one of the 36 diplomats honored at the United Nations Headquarters for helping thousands of people during world War II.
António #Guterres presided over the tribute at the #UN headquarters. The Un Secretary-General recalled the role of these diplomats during the #Holocaust.
#Portugal was one of the countries that promoted this tribute that featured the participation of the permanent representative of Portugal, Francisco Duarte Lopes and the Consul-General In New York, Maria de Andrade Mendes.
Click here to see the album: https://www.facebook.com/pg/sousamendesfoundation/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2284288998257701
After following Elizabeth Rynecki @erynecki creator of Chasing Portraits , from the inception of her Kickstarter campaign to reading the book and finally viewing the documentary,
Joan Arnay Halperin says,
“CONGRATULATIONS Elizabeth you are an inspiration!!! Your work is a tribute to your great-grandfather Moshe Rynecki, painter and historian ( His paintings record the history of Polish Jews of the interwar period.) for his body of work and and to you for your dedication to his memory.”
The opening of the exhibition BEYOND DUTY: DIPLOMATS RECOGNIZED AS RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS at the United Nations in New York City on Monday, January 28, from 1:15-2:30 p.m.
The event is free, but pre-registration is required, please click here.