Official Review: My Sister's Eyes by Joan Arnay Halperin

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inaramid
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Latest Review: My Sister's Eyes by Joan Arnay Halperin

Official Review: My Sister's Eyes by Joan Arnay Halperin

Post by inaramid » 16 Mar 2019, 22:33

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "My Sister's Eyes" by Joan Arnay Halperin.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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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
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Post 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.
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Latest Review: My Sister's Eyes by Joan Arnay Halperin

Post by inaramid » 23 Mar 2019, 10:22

IamShing wrote:
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!

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Post by Crazyreader01 » 23 Mar 2019, 11:26

I'm really intrigued as to what the tragic blow is, but at the same time, I don't think I want to know. Am definitely going to need tissues for this one! Thanks for the review. :tiphat:

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Post by chiefsimplex » 23 Mar 2019, 13:22

It is interesting when the struggles of war are told from this particular perspective.The history of a single family through these perilous times will surely give a somewhat closer approximation of the impact of war.Thanks for sharing.
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Latest Review: My Sister's Eyes by Joan Arnay Halperin

Post by inaramid » 23 Mar 2019, 20:55

Crazyreader01 wrote:
23 Mar 2019, 11:26
I'm really intrigued as to what the tragic blow is, but at the same time, I don't think I want to know. Am definitely going to need tissues for this one! Thanks for the review. :tiphat:
It's quite an emotional read, and I wished some portions were a bit longer. Thanks for commenting!

chiefsimplex wrote:
23 Mar 2019, 13:22
It is interesting when the struggles of war are told from this particular perspective.The history of a single family through these perilous times will surely give a somewhat closer approximation of the impact of war.Thanks for sharing.
Very true. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by Nyambura Githui » 24 Mar 2019, 15:20

Sounds like an interesting book but I'll pass.

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Post by kandscreeley » 24 Mar 2019, 20:08

Well, at first I was thinking it was good that they escaped, but it doesn't seem like it helped them. That was a horrible period in our history; one that we need to remember. Thanks for the review.
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Latest Review: My Sister's Eyes by Joan Arnay Halperin

Post by inaramid » 24 Mar 2019, 22:59

kandscreeley wrote:
24 Mar 2019, 20:08
Well, at first I was thinking it was good that they escaped, but it doesn't seem like it helped them. That was a horrible period in our history; one that we need to remember. Thanks for the review.
I'm always interested in books that shed some light into the war, and this one does it particularly well with the use of photographs and other mementos. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by IamShing » 25 Mar 2019, 04:29

I have read the book and it was great as assumed :)
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Post by Creator22 » 25 Mar 2019, 04:38

I am not a fan of history but this book seems to be great. The real pictures plus the family story makes it much more appealing. I am definitely adding this to my shelf. Thanks for your excellent review.

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Post by IamShing » 25 Mar 2019, 04:40

I agree with you
'Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.'

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Latest Review: My Sister's Eyes by Joan Arnay Halperin

Post by inaramid » 26 Mar 2019, 00:23

IamShing wrote:
25 Mar 2019, 04:29
I have read the book and it was great as assumed :)
I'm glad you got to read it. It's quite short, isn't it, but very impactful.

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Latest Review: My Sister's Eyes by Joan Arnay Halperin

Post by inaramid » 26 Mar 2019, 00:24

Creator22 wrote:
25 Mar 2019, 04:38
I am not a fan of history but this book seems to be great. The real pictures plus the family story makes it much more appealing. I am definitely adding this to my shelf. Thanks for your excellent review.
Thanks for your comment! The personal and historical elements certainly make this book shine. I would be very interested to see what you think once you get to read this. :)

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Latest Review: My Sister's Eyes by Joan Arnay Halperin

Post by inaramid » 26 Mar 2019, 00:36

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.

:dance: :dance:

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