Book Reviews

Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse

My edition: Hardcover library book
Pages: 148
Genre: WWI, Immigration, Racism, coming of age
Published: Jan. 1, 1992
Rating: 5 stars


In letters to her cousin, a young Jewish girl chronicles her family’s flight from Russia in 1919 and her own experiences when she must be left in Belgium for a while when the others immigrate to America.


I read this back in sixth grade. I remembered it as them escaping the Nazis, not the Russians. Sixth grade was almost seventeen years ago. That is how long I have been trying to find this book again. There for a little bit, I couldn’t remember the name but I could remember the cover. A picture of a bald girl holding the star of David.

Most people don’t know that Jews faced racism far before WWII and the Nazis. The Russians did not like them. They were blamed for everything. So during WWI, most Jewish men were more likely to be killed by their fellow soldiers than were by the enemy. Rifka’s family goes on the run to America to escape enlistment. Rifka tells of her journey to her beloved cousin Tovah who remained behind with her family.

I love the story of immigration told through the perspective of a twelve-year-old. Rifka’s story is not warm and fuzzy but it isn’t completely dark either. It is tragic. But so riveting.

… and from
The gloomy land of lonely exile
To a new country bad me come…


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