Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania
by Haya Leah Molnar
Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010
"We live on a quiet, tree-lined street, wedged between two of Bucharest's loveliest parks. Grandpa Yosef found the two-family house and rented the second-floor apartment shortly after the Communists nationalized all private property, including Grandpa's businesses and the several houses he owned before the war."
The "we" consists of seven adults and one beloved child, the author herself. As her artist parents and other relatives smoke, argue, and desperately await permission to leave 1950s Romania for Israel, young Eva (as she was called in childhood) wonders what it means to be Jewish and why first graders have to write assignments like "What the Communist Party Means to Me."
A memoir told from the point of view of a preadolescent kid is not the usual young-adult fare, and, indeed, Molnar says that she didn't write it with any particular age in mind. Her agent thought that Under a Red Sky was just right for teens. After all, Eva is also caught between the worlds of children and adults; at a family dinner, her father says to his sister-in-law, "I was wrong to call you a bitch. I should have called you a viper with a forked tongue." Although other dialogue is occasionally overburdened with expository material, this is a terrific book, full of memorable characters and sure to engage a wide range of readers, including adults.
Under a Red Sky is a nominee for a Cybil award in the Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction category.