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Hello America by Livia Bitton-Jackson
Reviewed by Becky Laney

HELLO AMERICA is a YA biography that continues the memoirs of the author (Livia Bitton-Jackson), a Holocaust survivor, as she immigrates to America. It is the sequel to I HAVE LIVED A THOUSAND YEARS. (I believe there is a middle sequel entitled MY BRIDGES OF HOPE, but I have not read it. I have read I HAVE LIVED A THOUSAND YEARS...and highly recommend it.)

HELLO, AMERICA begins right where I HAVE LIVED A THOUSAND YEARS left off...with her and her mother standing on the ship seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. The book shares her experiences (good and bad) of her new life in America. Of course, she is surrounded by an unfamiliar and seemingly strange culture and language. As she learns English (and the culture), she begins to feel more and more at home in America although life is not always easy. She finds that most Americans just are not interested in hearing about the Holocaust or recognizing her pain and anguish. In fact, some Jewish-Americans seem not to care about the experiences of those in the holocaust. This is what she finds so unbelievable.

The book shares her experiences working, shopping, dating, and learning the culture--for example, she learns that the streets are not always a safe place--as well as her emotional experiences as she still deals with the aftermath of surving the Holocaust while other family members and friends did not.

Probably the most memorable scene of HELLO, AMERICA is when she is sharing her experiences as a first grade teacher in a Hebrew school. The principal--a rabbi--calls her into his office to discipline her for daring to mention the fact that she was in a concentration camp. She explains that the child saw the number tattooed on her arm and asked where it came from. He tells her that she should have lied and said that the number was her telephone number. She is outraged, offended, and shocked..."In my pain and bitterness I wonder, do all Americans, Jews and Gentiles who were untouched by our tragedy and don't even want to hear about it, feel like him? Do they also prefer to believe that the number tattooed on my arm in Auschwitz is nothing but a harmless New York telephone number? Do they also prefer to place me, and all of us with numbers tattooed on our arms, beyond the pale of their world?" (141)

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