In 1903 in Kishinev, Russia, a 14-year-old Christian boy was stabbed to death by his uncle because of family squabbles over money. Newspaper stories subsequently blamed Jews for the murder, repeating outlandish lies that fed the people’s willful ignorance. No doubt it sold papers. A pogrom followed, not dissimilar to the “race riots” taking place at the same time in the United States. In Russia, Christian mobs destroyed Jewish property and killed Jews. In the U.S. white mobs destroyed black neighborhoods and killed blacks.
Shelly Sanders’ grandmother was the inspiration for this book. She survived a Russian pogrom, escaping to Shanghai and from there to the United States. Sanders has written a fine juvenile historical novel based on Kishinev’s 1903 history. Rachel, the protagonist, sees the boy’s murder but is afraid to say anything for fear that it will make things worse for her family and community. She becomes unlikely friends with the murdered boy’s best friend, a Christian.
The story soon won me over. I also appreciated the author’s note and glossary.