Friday, February 17, 2017

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Allegory, fairy tale, magical realism, historical novel-- Anna and the Swallow Man has a bit of it all. It certainly has the characters of an old European folk tale, not just simple good guys and bad guys but demons and shape changers. There's even the lovable fool. The story, set primarily in Poland in WWII, centers on Anna, a child of 7, whose father is taken away one day and never comes back. Though circumstance, Anna begins to travel with a person she names the Swallow Man. Their journey is one of survival, uncovering truths and illusions, falsehoods and fantasies. It is written in elegant, evocative prose, which leaves many aspects of the tale for the reader to imagine, but also filled a place in my reading heart I hadn't realized was vacant. Also notable are the wonderful chapter illustrations and cover art, done by Laura Carlin.
To be honest, I am not sure I was able to absorb all the author packed away in the pages, but this novel is one I am pretty sure I could again and find something new each time.

tags: 2017-read, awardwinner, first-novel-or-book, great-cover, magical-realism, read, still-trying-to-figure-this-one-ou, thank-you-charleston-county-library, translated, will-look-for-more-by-this-author, ya-lit

From the publisher: Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 16, 2017 A Day Without Immigrants

The Family of Abraham and Ida Galler circa 1926
My grandparents each fled their homeland in a time of persecution. In America, they not only found a haven and new home, they found each other. Hardworking and with few means, but a lot of drive, they started an egg cart on the East Side of NYC (which is especially ironic since one of their granddaughters is a pysanky/egg artist) that they gave up in the summer of 1929 to move their growing family to the country in Brooklyn and live off the income of the stocks they'd invested in with their profits. Their timing might not have been good, and even though wealth alluded them, their goodness and generosity touched many souls. At my grandfather's funeral, the funeral of a simple shopkeeper and resale man, over 1,000 people came to pay respects. They gave thanks to his widow and children, telling of the many kindnesses he had done them in a time of need, a helping hand, a few dollars here, a meal there. His family was astonished at the number of people he'd helped in his short life. The story is that my grandmother finally got exasperated, exclaiming to her eldest daughter "A nickel here, a dollar there, a bowl of soup there, and all the time his children had to wear second hand clothes and have fried bread for breakfast! Could a little of that generosity have been spent at home instead of giving to others? Did he have to help everyone who asked?" To which her daughter replied, "But Mama, that's what you do. If anyone needs help, they come to you!"

From humble beginnings, they raised a family. Their descendants are dentists, scientists, businesswomen, real estate agents, entrepreneurs, podiatrists, chefs, physical therapists, builders, philanthropists, volunteer workers, scholars, renaissance men, musicians, educators, professors, nurses, researchers, artists, writers, homemakers, teachers, CPAs, administrators, lawyers, doctors, veterinarians, parents, grandparents, and citizens. (And that's only through their children and grandchildren. Great grands and great great grands are still finding their passions, and seeing where their talents take them.)

Today, February 16, 2017, is a day where many have encouraged immigrants, "foreign-born people nationwide, regardless of legal status, not to go to work or go shopping in a demonstration of the importance of their labor and consumer spending to the United States’ economy."*   This granddaughter of immigrants stands with immigrants.

*Rogers, Katie