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Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania Hardcover – March 30, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5 Up—Molnar re-creates memories and family stories of living in postwar Romania, fleshing them out with dialogue that, while not exact, remains true to the essence of her experiences, resulting in a readable, informative, and engaging book. The only child living in a crowded flat with seven adults representing three generations, Eva is often the center of attention of her frequently squabbling anti-Communist relatives. Her life becomes more complicated when she discovers at the age of seven that she is Jewish. She tries to understand what this means, particularly in light of her father's undiscussed but hinted-at war experiences, but for once gets little help from her family. In the late 1950s, Eva's family begins the long process of applying to immigrate to Israel, and their applications result in nerve-racking visits from Communist government agents who search their apartment. Once the grandparents leave, a non-Jewish family is assigned to their room, making it unsafe for the family to communicate with one another at home. The drama isn't over when Eva and her parents finally get the chance to leave; a less- desirable route and her father's return for a missing camera cause some tense days. Enough history and background are included to help today's readers understand the context of Eva's family's situation without detracting from the story. The book would make an interesting pairing with Peter Sís's The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain (Farrar, 2007). Photographs of Molnar and her family are included.—Nancy Silverrod, San Francisco Public Library
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Molnar began life as Eva Zimmerman, an adored only child living in the apartment shared by her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles in Bucharest, Romania. The author’s loving but eccentric family sheltered her as much as possible from the harsh realities of life under communist rule, when food and housing were scarce and the Securitate, Romania’s secret police, watched and listened everywhere. Her father, a cinematographer, believed in science, not God, and neither religion nor World War II were spoken of at home, so it came as a huge shock to Molnar when she learned in 1958 that her entire family had applied to emigrate to Israel and that she is Jewish. All I know is that yesterday I wasn’t Jewish and today I am, says Molnar in describing her struggle to understand her new identity. As Eva pieces together her family’s history, a vivid story emerges, ranging from funny, tender moments of family life to the horrific revelations of the Romanian holocaust, about which little has been written. Black-and-white family photos illustrate this poignant, memorable offering. Grades 6-9. --Lynn Rutan

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 870L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374318409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374318406
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


I was born in Bucharest, Romania under Communist rule. By the time I was six years old I was writing poetry and reciting it in front of my classmates, family and friends. Writing has been central in my life ever since.

My parents were Holocaust survivors and hid my Jewish identity from me in order to protect me from anti-Semitism. At age seven and a half I found out about my Jewish identity -- and my life changed drastically. "Under a Red Sky" is a memoir about this time period in my life and how my family and I escaped Communism.

I came to America at the age of thirteen and learned English. Even while I was struggling to learn English in middle school, I loved writing essays! My favorite authors as a young girl were Mark Twain, and Alexandre Dumas, père.

As an adult I became a copywriter and later creative director in advertising. I wrote copy for many Fortune 500 companies and won international awards, but I never stopped writing short stories and poetry, and I dreamt of writing and publishing books.

Today I write full time. Ideas for stories and books are always bubbling in my head and I often feel like there's never enough time to write them all down, but I do it just the same. Seeing my first book in print was a life long dream come true. I am especially happy that young people will get to read my book because my dream began when I was very young. I hope if you are reading this, that you will continue to dream and make your dreams happen by persevering and believing in yourself.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sheldon Firstenberg on January 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enthusiastically recommend this wonderful book that was so compelling and moving, that I wanted the book to continue past the end because I cared so much about the central characters who are beginning a new and exciting chapter in their lives. This is the story of a Jewish family struggling to survive in "Cold War" Romania in the 1950's as seen through the eyes of Eva, the child in the family. I felt like I was getting an education about Communist Romania in the context of a heroic family striving to maintain its identity in the face of relentless government pressures to conform to the ideals of the totalitarian state. Haya Leah Molnar (Eva's Hebrew Name) is truly a gifted writer. I consider her a painter as well, because Haya paints memorable pictures with her words that absorb the attention of the reader. Her pictures are connected to human emotions that are windows into our very souls.
Eva's family hides her Jewish identity from her for her own protection. She gradually learns about her Jewish roots and the Torah through secretive visits to a Rabbi. Although these meetings put both Eva and her family at great risk, Eva's family is willing to chance it so Eva has the opportunity to encounter and nurture her Jewish identity. I would subtitle this book, "A Tree of Life Grows in Bucharest." Eva takes her readers along on her inspiring journey that leaves one feeling more hopeful and courageous about the possibilities for growth in a repressive society.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Susan on January 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A perceptive and precocious young girl grows up in a house filled with adults. And what a cast of characters they are! There is Uncle Natan, who sleeps on a cot in the dining room and suddenly decides to get married (the marriage lasts about three months, with no explanations). Then there is Aunt Puica who lives with Uncle Max in a smoke-choked bedroom referred to by Grandma as the Bat Cave, spending her days reading trashy romance novels in her underwear and puffing on cigarettes. Grandma Iulia, Grandpa Yosef, Mama (once a ballerina) and Tata, a gentle man who's hardly ever home, all share the one little girl and dote on her accordingly.

Young Eva's bedroom is separated from her parents' room by only a bookcase, a thought that would send shivers down the spine of any Freudian, but somehow Eva grows up loved and astonishingly normal, with the wise head of a much older person. She knows that her menagerie of a family cherishes her deeply and would do anything for her.

These things are important, since Eva is living in Communist Roumania in the late 1950's, where a false word might land you in prison or worse. Under a Red Sky is a glimpse into this world for us coddled souls who probably can't imagine waiting most of the day in line to purchase a dozen eggs, or, dare we hope, a chicken. It's a delightful, funny tale and the odd characters come alive in the telling. Humor and humanity trump repression.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By AJL Reviews on January 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Under a Red Sky is a memoir that tells the little known story of Bucharest's Romanian Jews under Communism from the late 1950's to 1961. This intense first person narrative is full of immediate detail about the life of an extended family of seven adults and one child, who live in a few rooms in a house in Bucharest. Eva, the young narrator, recalls the details, sounds, sights, foods, and Romanian words that draw the reader close to her experiences. Though the narrator is ostensibly a child, the voice is the perceptive and expressive voice of an adult, accurately recalling her childhood. We follow Eva's story during the years she grew from seven to ten, when the family, after much difficulty, emigrated to Israel. Living a secular life, her family is nevertheless branded as Jewish, and subjected to governmental scrutiny, loss of their jobs, and many punitive indignities. Perseverance, courage, and complicated love and support relationships keep them sane until their final escape. Eva's connection with her beloved Grandpa Yosef, her Grandma Julia and her parents are memorable. The story moves swiftly, and the book is difficult to put down. One reads the last page with regret, wanting to know what happened next to people one has come to care for. When the book begins, Eva does not know that she is Jewish, though she hears her grandparents speak Yiddish frequently. The passage where grandpa Yosef gives Eva a mezuzah and introduces her to Hebrew letters and her previously unknown Jewish identity is strongly felt. The book includes black and white photographs of the family, some by Eva's father, Gyuri Zimmerman, which intensify its authenticity.
It is necessary to issue a caveat about designating this as a children's book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Serena A on February 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great read about Communist Romania and being Jewish with the hardships and adventures from a child's perspective. Read this book even if you're just interested. It will surprise and amaze you!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Conceicao on April 27, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book really gives you an idea of a child's experience and viewpoint. It sheds light on a time and place which I knew very little about. The characters are vividly portrayed and the book is beautifully written. There are images that are surprising and evocative. "Under a Red Sky" is a wonderful book for all ages.
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