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Becoming Alice: A Memoir
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Becoming Alice: A Memoir

4.6 10
by Alice Rene

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At age six, Ilse "Alice" Rene watched Nazi soldiers march down her street in Vienna, Austria, beginning an odyssey that would bring her to Riga, Latvia, and end in Portland, Oregon. Becoming Alice: A Memoir chronicles the adventure of her Jewish family’s harrowing escape, their struggle as immigrants to fit into the American landscape, and Rene’s personal problems


At age six, Ilse "Alice" Rene watched Nazi soldiers march down her street in Vienna, Austria, beginning an odyssey that would bring her to Riga, Latvia, and end in Portland, Oregon. Becoming Alice: A Memoir chronicles the adventure of her Jewish family’s harrowing escape, their struggle as immigrants to fit into the American landscape, and Rene’s personal problems growing up within a troubled family.

The family settles in Portland, where Rene’s parents run a mom-and-pop grocery store. Different from her classmates, Rene feels ashamed and frightened, finding her only solace in her friendship with a neighborhood girl. During high school, she finds a kindred soul in Elaine, a Jewish girl with whom she shares an interest in boys. Rene is eager to start dating, but is hamstrung by her parents’ restrictive old-world rules.

Rene decides to attend college at UCLA, believing it’s her chance to discover her independence. Overwhelmed by anxieties and insecurity, she suffers from panic attacks and comes close to moving back home. When she transfers to Berkeley, she lives in a boarding house surrounded by girls from a patchwork of cultures and finally discovers her true identity. Becoming Alice brilliantly showcases Rene’s triumph over adversity, identity crisis, and the sometimes-debilitating power of family ties.

Product Details

iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date:
Rising Star Series
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.53(d)

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Becoming Alice 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's probably just me, because it was not what I expected, I found it hard to keep interested in, but again, it just wasn't what I was looking for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed Becoming Alice by Alice Rene. The first part of the book was about her and her family's escape from Vienna when the Nazis arrived. The rest of the book covers her new life in the United States and her struggle to fit in. This aspect of her story was very interesting to read, considering what she had already been through. She really gave an in depth look at what it was like for immigrants trying to adjust to their new country and their new life. It was an exciting read and I think it is really great that she shared her story. The way she describes events makes the reader feel as though they are there with her. I highly recommend this book.
angela09 More than 1 year ago
In "Becoming Alice, A Memoir", we are introduced to the Fell family through the eyes of their daughter Ilse, who was only six years old when the Nazi soldier's changed her life forever. As she watched them marching down the street she could never have imagined the destruction and devastation that they would leave in their path. Barely able to stay ahead of the invading army the Fell family flees from their home in Vienna, Austria. First they go to Riga, then to Latvia and finally to the safety of America. Arriving in Portland, Oregon they were unaware of the hardships they were about to face living in a world they were not acquainted with. Each and everyday became a struggle for this once prominent family, no longer could they live the life that accustomed to. Soon Ilse childhood became marred by the events that fell upon her family, never knowing where she fit in and trying to adjust to this strange land. Trying to make the best of every situation became hard as she went from Ilse to Illy to Elsie and even Sally before she finally became Alice. When she became Alice she finally began to become comfortable in her own skin. "Becoming Alice, a Memoir", is a moving narrative that will touch your heart and stir your soul. Wrote as though she is telling you personally the story of her life, Alice Rene, moves you to tears and then cheers you up as she brings you the highs and the lows of her life. Alice Rene has no only written her memoirs she has written a book that will inspire all of us rise above what is holding you down. Truly a book that all should read. I considered it an honor to review her wonderful book.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Born with the name Ilse, Alice Rene was six when the Nazis took over her hometown of Vienna, Austria. Her Jewish family was forced to flee, and while many others, including some of her family members, weren't so lucky, Ilse and her parents and older brother eventually settle in Portland, Oregon. From there, Alice documents her life in America: learning English, her struggles making friends at school, becoming an American citizen. She changes her name from Ilse to Alice and starts calling her parents "Mom" and "Dad" instead of "Mama" and "Papa." As she gets older, Alice experiences her first romance and watches her older brother go through the pain of heartbreak. She also gains the courage to stand up to her overbearing father for the first time. When high school ends and she starts applying to college, Alice begins to plan ways to forge her own identity apart from her family. This is an interesting memoir that reads more as a series of chronological anecdotes than a straightforward narrative. While the effects of the Holocaust are an inescapable part of the novel, the focus is more on Alice's experiences becoming American and establishing her own identity. I would recommend BECOMING ALICE as an interesting coming-of-age memoir.
FroggieReviews More than 1 year ago
From her window, Ilse sees the Nazi soldiers parading through her street. Ilse realizes that the Jewish are not wanted in Austria, when she and the family maid go shopping. When their band account is frozen, Ilse's father decides they must sell some of their possessions. Her father then escapes from Austria by saying he will go gather goose feathers. Her father gets visa's for Ilse, her mother and brother. Unfortunately the Nazi's have shut the border and the family has to reroute their trip. When they finally arrive in Lithuania, Ilse is reunited with her father. Herr Lehmann smuggles the family over the border to Latvia. Fredi, Ilse's brother can get a visa to America is he goes to boarding school. Their parents make him go. Ilse's father has been trying to get visas for the rest of the family with no success. Finally the family is granted the visas. They have to travel through Kobe, Japan. Once they arrive in Kobe, they board a ship that will take the refugees to their new home in America. Ilse's family settles in Portland, Oregon. An organization that helps the Jewish find jobs, offers to buy a grocery store for the family to run. After much consideration, Ilse's parents agree. Later they enroll Ilse in school, which causes her much distress because she speaks no English. After living in the United States for the required five years, the family applied for citizenship. Ilse changes her name to Alice because it sounds more "American." She hopes changing her name to Alice will make her upcoming high school years easier than her grade school. After graduating from high school, life begins to be more comfortable for her. Many people know something about the Jewish Holocaust, but you hardly ever hear about a family who escapes by moving to the United States. It was refreshing to read a story about a Jewish family that had a relatively happy ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CaApril More than 1 year ago
"Becoming Alice" is a coming of age memoir that begins on the day during WWII when Nazi soldier's march into Vienna, Austria and ends in Berkeley, California when a young girl finally finds her true self. Author Alice Rene recounts her childhood with amazing courage and heart while drawing the reader into her story to the point where I could feel the emotions she must have felt. She was only 6 when her family had to escape Vienna and to see that drama unfold through the eyes of a child was often heart-wrenching but always hopeful. Upon arriving in the US they struggled in a city and culture that was very different from where they came from and Alice found she didn't fit in with the other children her age. I could totally relate to that, although for different reasons, and became embroiled in Alice's attempts to be like everyone else. She even changed her name from Ilse to Alice in an effort to seem more American to those she met. Eventually Alice realized it would take more than a name change and that what she really needed to do was find her own identity somewhere between her Jewish roots and the American culture. I really think this is something everyone can empathize with, as we all struggle to find our identities, and Alice does an excellent job of describing her battles with her family and herself as she searches for her path in life. This memoir is a true gem that will have you laughing and crying right along with Alice as she goes through the good times and the bad. Young adults and anyone who had trouble fitting in will relate to her challenges in her new American environment and her journey to be her own person. I recommend this book for anyone interested in WWII Jewish history, young adults struggling to find their place in the world, or anyone who likes good story-telling.
DarcyO More than 1 year ago
"Becoming Alice: A Memoir" is a first-person account by Alice Rene of her family's escape from the Nazis to America. The family lived in Vienna, Austria, where her father was a doctor. Alice was known as Ilse and her older brother was named Fredi. When the Nazis began to take over Vienna, the family was forced to stay out of sight. Alice's father couldn't work because he was Jewish. The family's bank account was frozen, as were all Jewish bank accounts. Because circumstances became too dangerous in Vienna, the family fled to Memel, Germany, then to Riga, Latvia. Visas were hard to come by, so when one was finally available to the family, Fredi was sent to New York. The rest of the family remained in Riga until they received visas for travel on the Trans Siberian Railway, ending in Kobe, Japan. Then they endured a typhoon on their boat ride to Seattle, Washington. Upon arriving in America and reuniting with Fredi, the family faced more challenges. Alice's parents had difficulty finding suitable employment. Her mother kept the family afloat with her sewing until her parents were offered a job running a neighborhood grocery store. Meanwhile, Alice enrolled in school and struggled to fit in. She went from "Ilse" on formal documents to "Elsie" at school, "Illy" at home, "Suzinka" by her parents, to "Sally" by local firemen. When she became a U.S. citizen, she chose "Alice" as her new name. I was enthralled by Alice's story. In Vienna, the family lived a comfortable life; her father was well-respected as a doctor. They had to give it all up to start over in America, but they were among the lucky ones who lived. I had heard about many Jews who came to New York, but didn't realize they also came across Siberia to Japan and then to Seattle. Alice's poignant, well-written memoir will draw readers in to discover the fate of Jewish immigrants fleeing Nazi persecution. The book has won several awards in the young adult and memoir/autobiography categories. I highly recommend reading this one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The beautiful young girl on the cover of Becoming Alice draws you into the drama of her life story. While the book expresses a child centered view of the holocaust it is most unique in its demonstration of the ultimate consequences of terror and displacement, showing us the psychological effects that overtake a family and a young girl as they move into a New World having had to leave their identities behind. It is an enlightening biography that speaks with an honest voice'. Linda Sher Salzman