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4.6 out of 5 stars14
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on October 17, 2006
This is a wonderful, touching book. It is a harrowing story of a young women's struggle to survive the Holocaust and save her toddler daughter. The story takes place in Hungary in the last year of the war. A resourceful and courageous woman, the mother manages to hide as a servant woman. She is both willing and able to do whatever it takes to stay alive. The latter part of the book is devoted to her husband's search for her and his daughter. This search is eventually successful and the family builds a happy life after the war.

The book moved me to tears because it touches the raw pain and desperation both of the mother and of the bewildered child. Unlike many other Holocaust books, this one focuses not so much on the cruelty of the Nazis and their Hungarian helpers, but on the many kind people who took risks to help the two survive or just showed them kindness when it was most needed.

One of the central themes of the book is the young child's struggle to understand God in the context of the losses she suffers. Throughout her life, the protagonist yearned to believe in a God that she felt did not exist. It's an interesting theme and is handled in a nuanced manner.

This is a graphic novel, in cartoon strip format. I did not fall in love with the images. They lack the graphic power of "Maus." Spiegleman made the cartoon medium work for him, forever changing it. Katin's images seemed to me to be less interesting and challenging. They are carefully drawn and capture the mood, but what made the book work for me was the dialog, and that could have been captured as a narrative as well.

This book may not, in my opinion, be appropriate for the younger student because of sexual content. There are two situations of forced sex, and while they are not graphically depicted, the themes are rather adult. There is also discussion of an abortion. The older highschool student should be able to contextualize the material appropriately.
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VINE VOICEon April 26, 2012
This simply, yet strongly drawn & illustrated graphic novel will remain in your memory for quite some time. Imagine a graphic novel of a younger Ann Frank's life, with a happy ending. Or is it?
This is the story of Miriam & her mother. Two Jews in Hungary. Miriam's father is fighting in the Hungarian Army. Life is becoming harder for Jews in Budapest. Miriam's mother fears what will happen & instead of staying & hoping for the best, like the vast majority of Jews sadly did; she chooses to run.
Miriam is just about four. Her mother leaves almost all their possessions & leaves behind their family & friends. Her mother disguises herself as a peasant & Miriam is passed off as her illegitimate daughter. Miriam's mother even thought about faking their own deaths, so that no one would come looking for them.
Her mother finds them shelter where she can. Miriam is quite straightforward in her telling. Her mother was especially brave. She does all she needs to do in order to keep both of them alive. Even, if it means allowing a German Nazi officer to have sex with her each night, so he will not denounce them as Jews. That episode ends when his Mistress finds out & she intends to denounce Miriam's mother. They flee in the nick of time.
Eventually, the war ends. Miriam's mother searches for her husband. The Jewish man in charge of the search & rescue committee which is helping her, befriends her. He falls in love with her, but also learns the husband is alive & is also searching for his wife & child. Soon after, the illustrations end. There are two more pages telling in brief the story of this family in the ensuing years.
Find this book. Read it. Be moved by it. Share it with others.
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VINE VOICEon December 20, 2009
Growing up in the Westside of Cleveland in the 1950's, I had many chances to meet people who were displaced Europeans settling in America. In fact there were so many of these people a colloquial and derogatory term was placed to identify these people being the phrase "DP". In essence all these people were trying to do was to seek a new life in America. Little did I know of any of their stories in which they had to endure to get to the shores of the promised new land.
One such story is Marian Katin's graphic depiction of her mother and herself fleeing Budapest under Nazi rule in 1944. The very fact that they were Jewish as late as 1944 under Nazi rule gives one the sense that it took a long time for some Nazi occupied countries to be affected by the genocidical programs inherent to this regime.
Katin's story which tells of the Nazi terror and later the Soviet invasion shows the true plight of how people lost their homes and in many cases their very lives in the collateral damage of war. Katin's images and narrative show the true emotional and psychological scars of what transpired. The book shows a true and uncensored depiction of true events of a world gone mad. People acting under stress conditions show both their humanistic qualities to help mankind no matter what country they were from and on the other hand people acting selfishly and thinking only of themselves. This story is of people being people under the stress of a world at war caused by political minds seeking their own selfish ends.
This graphic story should be added to all the serious historical accumulation of World War II studies showing what this war was truly about. This book is actual history shown in the graphic genre which deserves our serious attention. Very well done and deserving a high five star rating.
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Katin's charming and sorrowful book tells yet another story of escape from WWII Germany. There's no such thing as "just another," because each experience of that time is unique - and this is a unique telling.

This combines many viewpoints in different ways. At one level, it alternates between heartwrenching pencil drawings of dark time with a few sporadic scenes from decades after the war, drawn in cheery pastels. The recent images capture snapshots of a happy household, with a child of four or five starting to learn the traditions of Judaism. Wartime scenes show a similar child, torn from her life one step ahead of the antisemitic roundups. That child sees things no child should ever see, saved from the horror of knowing them only by having no way to understand what she has seen. We see them, though, and understand. We see a German officer forcing himself on the child's mother again and again, leaving her sobbing after each encounter - the child thinks she's sad to see him leave. Likewise, that wartime child can re-enact but not comprehend the bombing of the city around her, or the death of a devout Jew's faith in God.

It's never explicit, but most of the story seems to have a happy ending. That wartime child grows up, and becomes mother to the modern-time child that we see in the color pages. Maybe any evil, even one of that magnitude, can pass. It must not be forgotten, though, and we now live in crucial years for capturing those experiences. People who lived through that time as adults are passing away and, each time, another set of memories vanishes forever. Katin captures a few of those memories from her own parents and family, and from her own child's-eye experience. Some might find this painful to read - it describes a painful time. A solid core of optimism makes it bearable, though, as in so many other areas of life.

-- wiredweird
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VINE VOICEon July 24, 2008
The title of Miriam Katin's graphic memoir, We Are On Our Own, is the subtext and conclusion of the story of her survival in Nazi-occupied Hungary. It's one of the most powerful and relentless memoirs I've ever read, graphic or otherwise. For sheer honesty, it ranks right up there with Wiesel's Night, Bechdel's Fun Home, and Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar.

Katin's recollections concern the final weeks of WWII, when the Nazis occupying Hungary know that the game is nearly over and the Soviet Army is advancing. Miriam, who's a girl of 5 or 6, and her mother Esther flee Budapest just before the last of the Jews are rounded up. Disguising themselves as gentile peasants, they resettle in the countryside, where Esther finds herself doing what she must to survive--including becoming the mistress of the local Nazi commandant. The tale is gripping: anti-Semetic Hungarians, brutal Nazis, panic and selfishness dancing with compassion and sacrifice. Esther emerges as an incredibly admirable woman.

The memoir begins with Esther reading the Biblical creation story to Miriam. But as the harrowing story unfolds, whatever faith in a benevolent and protective God that Miriam and Esther might've had drops away. Time and again, they realize that they, like all humanity, are on their own. The recollections are intercut with contemporary scenes in which Miriam, now a grown woman and still without religious faith, is conflicted about her own child going to Hebrew school and temple.

We Are on Our Own's honesty is refreshing as well as potentially disturbing. How can one survive the Holocaust with a comfortable faith--or any faith, for that matter--intact? This is a question too frequently sidestepped, because the answer to it can be unpleasant. Katin doesn't shy away.
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"We Are on Our Own" is a vivid graphic novel that tells the story of Miriam Katin and her mother, Esther who fled the Nazis in 1944 Budapest. The story is one of courage and steely determination to survive, especially by Miriam's mother who had to save 2 year old Miriam and herself from certain destruction by the Nazis. The tale focuses not only on the harsh times the pair go through but more importantly highlights the kindness shown by strangers, Gentiles who put themselves at risk to save a Jewish mother and her toddler. The story also brings to light the issue of faith during troubled times - Miriam's experiences, and her parents' experiences, affects her view of God, and she grows up more as an atheist than a devout Jew.

Though we all know how brutal the Nazis were, Miriam's tale also shows how inhuman some Russian soldiers were - murdering, raping and pillaging the innocents as they advanced into German-held territory. It truly shows how war affects people - bringing out good in some, and evil in others.

The story itself is brief - the illustrations are vivid and mostly dark, evoking the desperation felt by Miriam's mother, Esther as she is forced to endure all sorts of trials in order to survive and keep Miriam safe. It is a compelling tale that is a welcome addition to stories dealing with the Holocaust.
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on November 3, 2007
We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin is the story of a young Hungarian Jewish woman and her small daughter struggling to survive through the Holocaust. Esther Levy is during her best to raise Lisa (really author Katin) while her husband Karoly is off fighting the Nazis during WWII. But one by one their freedoms are taken from them, including their right to own a dog or live in their apartment. Rather than go to a concentration camp, Esther fakes their deaths and flees into the countryside. She is forced to become the mistress of a Nazi commandant, raped by Russian soldiers, fights through a blizzard, and has an abortion. All in the quest to save her daughter's life. The scenes from the war are drawn in black and white with a charcoal feel to them. They are alternated with scenes from Lisa's life as a mother which are brightly colored, almost harshly so. The pictures are haunting and with a few simple strokes, Katin is able to bring remarkable depth and emotion to each frame. Several pages with the reunion of Karoly and Esther brought tears to my eyes and are examples of masterful storytelling. Another review here says that the book is pointless and doesn't have enough interest to merit publishing. I beg to differ. The Holocaust is such a huge tragedy that thinking about the death of 9 million is impossible to comprehend. But seeing the fight and heroics of a simple woman in the midst of the war brings home the destruction and devastation it brought. Not just to the landscape, but to the human spirit as well. It's a powerful story told about love and courage with the same.
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on March 18, 2008
Miriam Katin is pure brilliance! What a touching, compelling account of a terrible time in our planet's history. The artwork is just spectacular! This has to be one of the best books I've ever read.

Highly recommend!!
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on September 2, 2015
Miriam Katin is my wife of 51 years so perhaps I should recuse myself from a review.
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on July 2, 2015
I saw this in an art exhibit, ended up buying and reading the book, well drawn, good author and artist
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