All Russians Love Birch TreesOlga Grjasnowa; Eva Bacon (translator

All Russians Love Birch Trees
Olga Grjasnowa; Eva Bacon (translator)
Other, Jan 7 2014, $15.95
ISBN: 9781590515846

Masha Kogan was a little girl when her family fled war-ravaged Azerbaijan settling in Germany where the national policy encourages Jewish immigration though the natives are wary of foreigners from certain regions but especially Muslims. She has a propensity for language speaking many fluently as Masha studies to become an interpreter. The Jewish community is angry with her because her two best friends, Sami the Lebanese and Cem the Turk born in Germany, are Muslim while her boyfriend Elias is a natural born German.

When Elias breaks his leg playing soccer, he undergoes surgery only to die. Grieving Masha relooks her priorities and accepts a translator position in Israel. Her initial welcome to the Holy Land upon landing at the airport is security, claiming high risk, destroying her computer for containing Arabic stickers on it. From that stunning stray, as in Germany, Masha feels like an unwanted outsider especially since she speaks Arabic instead of Hebrew. As she meets her fellow Jews, Masha stereotypes the Israelis as deniers or PTSD suffers with her belonging to neither grouping.

This is a fascinating tale in which the violent background supersedes the protagonist who takes readers as a person without a homeland from Azerbaijan to Germany to Israel with the constant international message from the natives: distrust anyone different especially refugees. Timely with the immigration debate in America, readers will appreciate the harrowing journey that the displaced face more than the heroine escorting us.

Harriet Klausner

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