Saturday, September 7, 2013

Books Need Critical Acclaim, so Paula Rose Michelson

A 5* Review! “If a book is engaging from the first page, it's a sign of a very good writer. Paula Rose Michelson is not just a very good writer. She is an excellent writer, so she gets the readers interested in the fate of her main character from the very first line. As soon as I read, "Naomi knew she was in trouble the moment the immigration official had told her, he was taking her to Ellis Island," I was hooked. I knew I was in for a treat. And then the story got even better.

For fifteen-year-old Naomi, Ellis Island truly becomes "the last hope," but that hope comes at a price. The seemingly nice woman who agrees to sponsor Naomi's application to stay in the US quickly becomes more of a hostage taker than a helper. At least that's what Naomi thinks at first. Later, she realizes that she has just entered into a business arrangement that will shape her life in ways she has never expected.

Naomi's story is heartfelt and heart-breaking. In her native Spain, she had to "live in the shadows" and pretend to be Catholic to avoid persecution for her Jewish faith. She comes to America in hopes of gaining more freedom, but at first it seems that she gets loneliness and an overwhelming sensation of guilt instead of that freedom. Naomi's life journey involves loss, adaptation to the new world, a quick coming of age, marriage, and a sudden flood of opportunities that promise a brighter future, including the hope to get reacquainted with her faith and the Jewish way of life.

There's so much to love and admire about this book. It is engaging from the first to the last page, it is beautifully written, and meticulously researched. The research section that details the plight of Jewish people in Spain has more research than one could ever expect in a novel, and that information is highly appreciated and needed. With authentic detail and a sincere narrator's voice, Naomi's story comes to life on the pages of Paula Rose Michelson's wonderful book…I highly recommend.”

This evening, Julia Gousseva honored my work when she wrote, “I teach writing at a community college in Arizona, and I have a lot of freedom in what readings I pick, especially for my 101 and creative writing students. Right now, I'm updating my 101 classes and I was wondering if you would be interested in sending me the first chapter of Casa de Naomi to use with the students. I try to choose first chapters of a variety of books for them so they can look at different writing styles and (hopefully!) inspire them to read the rest on their own. Our students don't read much, but I try to get them interested. For my courses, I use software provided by the college -- I post my assignments and do grading from that software. That software is password-protected and only accessible to enrolled students. However, all my readings are on my own website that is open to everyone. I'll post the link at the end of the message for you to take a look at it. If I were to use your first chapter, it would be for my weekly online discussions, and the assignment would be something like this: Read the first chapter, answer some questions about the writing style and content (I would have to come up with them), and (if you would be interested in this part) think of some questions to ask the author. Of course, I wouldn't expect you to answer all their questions. I would pick a couple of questions, send them to you, and then post your responses on the website. So, here's the link. Please think about it and we can discuss it more. No rush at all! I just thought it would be great for the students to be able to read just a little sample of your book. I'm really trying hard to give them a variety of readings so that each of them finds something to his/her liking at least once in a while.”

Of course I said, "Yes!"

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