From the author of Blind, a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story set during World War II in Shanghai, one of the only places Jews without visas could find refuge.
Warsaw, Poland. The year is 1940 and Lillia is fifteen when her mother, Alenka, disappears and her father flees with Lillia and her younger sister, Naomi, to Shanghai, one of the few places that will accept Jews without visas. There they struggle to make a life; they have no money, there is little work, no decent place to live, a culture that doesn’t understand them. And always the worry about Alenka. How will she find them? Is she still alive?
Meanwhile Lillia is growing up, trying to care for Naomi, whose development is frighteningly slow, in part from malnourishment. Lillia finds an outlet for her artistic talent by making puppets, remembering the happy days in Warsaw when her family was circus performers. She attends school sporadically, makes friends with Wei, a Chinese boy, and finds work as a performer at a “gentlemen’s club” without her father’s knowledge.
But meanwhile the conflict grows more intense as the Americans declare war and the Japanese force the Americans in Shanghai into camps. More bombing, more death. Can they survive, caught in the crossfire?
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Sexual assault, Suicide, Underage drinking, Violence
Booklist starred (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. During WWII, teenage Lillia and her circus acrobat family flee Poland for Shanghai, joining a large Jewish refugee community from both Europe and America. DeWoskin, who has lived in China, has done meticulous research, but what stands out is her lyrical, sensitive portrayal of families struggling to survive during wartime, and the heartbreaking uncertainty that comes from families being separated. Although Lillia’s father gets Lillia and her developmentally disabled baby sister, Naomi, out of Poland before they end up in concentration camps, father and daughters are separated from mother Alenka. Once safely in Shanghai, they find that nothing is easy: food, jobs, housing, medical treatment, and childcare are scarce or nonexistent, and Jewish refugees find themselves crowded into the ghetto of Hongkou. Eventually Lillia takes a job (without her father’s knowledge or permission) as a hostess-dancer at a gentleman’s club, bringing in money for food and medicine—she also develops a romantic relationship with a Chinese boy. All the while, the family aches for Alenka, not knowing if they will ever see her again. Lillia uses her art (dance and puppetry) to keep herself and her family going in the face of constant challenges. Offering an unusual portrait of what war does to families in general and children in particular, DeWoskin is never didactic as she affirms the human need for art and beauty in hard times.
Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
During World War II, Lillia and her Polish family struggle to make a new home in Shanghai. DeWoskin (Blind, 2014, etc.) explores a rarely depicted topic: the struggles of the Shanghai Jewish refugees. Lillia’s parents, Stanislav Circus acrobats, are performing their last show when the event is raided. Her mother is lost in the confusion, and Lillia, her father, and her developmentally disabled baby sister flee Warsaw, traveling by land and sea to China. Part of Lillia rejects what is going on around her, in innocent disbelief at what people are capable of doing to one another, while another part revels in small freedoms, wandering the streets of Shanghai unmonitored, amazed at discovering a Jewish community in this foreign land. There, in a place where she begins to hate the hope she harbors that her mother will find them, Lillia both discovers new strength and plunges into new depths of desperation, driven to do things that would surprise and appall her old self. Though the instances of Chinese romanized text are missing all tonal marks that denote pronunciation and meaning, English translations are given. The vivid characters are flawed and evolve, sometimes according to or despite their circumstances. Particularly fascinating is the juxtaposition of the plight of Jewish refugees with that of the Chinese living in a Japanese-occupied Shanghai. A beautifully nuanced exploration of culture and people. (author’s note, sources, map) (Historical fiction. 13-18)
About the Author
Rachel DeWoskin spent her twenties in China as the unlikely star of a nighttime soap opera that inspired her memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing. She is the author of Repeat After Me and Big Girl Small, which received the American Library Association’s Alex Award for an adult book with special appeal to teen readers; Rachel’s conversations with young readers inspired her to write her first YA novel, Blind. Rachel is on the faculty of the University of Chicago, where she teaches creative writing.
She lives in Chicago with her husband, playwright Zayd Dohrn, and their two daughters.
Rachel and her family spent six summers in Shanghai while she researched Someday We Will Fly.
Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.
Around the Web
Someday We Will Fly on Amazon
Someday We Will Fly on Barnes and Noble
Someday We Will Fly on Goodreads
Someday We Will Fly on LibraryThing
Someday We Will Fly Publisher Page