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Austrian Ilse Shpann spends her teen years with her family in Japanese-occupied Shanghai alongside numerous other refugees and stateless Jewish citizens. Fortunate to have escaped a Nazi concentration camp, Ilse; her older brother, Erich; and their parents experience a difficult and poverty-stricken five years. Forced to live in filthy, cramped tenementlike quarters, the Shpanns scrounge to find work and scrape together meager sums of money to keep themselves fed and sheltered. Rebellious Erich joins a resistance movement and works underground until he is caught, arrested, and nearly dies of typhus. Mother's hidden American connection/citizenship is uncovered, resulting in her detainment in a Japanese internment "civil assembly center." Ilse soon finds herself alone and, with a depressed and nonworking Father, in charge of maintaining normalcy if not basic survival needs for both. Through descriptive scenes, metaphorical language, and some risky, adventurous episodes, Ruby tells this Asian-oriented Holocaust story in Ilse's first-person voice that is at once sardonic, brave, determined, and hopeful. Minor, yet less-developed characters of a Chinese street urchin and a Japanese "King of the Jews" supervisor contribute to the atmosphere and provide some vivid interaction for Ilse in an Eastern world so vastly different from her own European existence. A lesser-known side of Holocaust history.
—Rita SoltanCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.