Under A Red Sky by Haya Leah Molnar

Book Information
Farrar Straus Giroux
320 pages


Awards & Reviews

Other Authors Praise Under a Red Sky

"A tenderly written child's-eye view of a heartbreaking historical era, told with the wisdom of maturity."

Margarita Engle, Newbery Honor author of The Surrender Tree and winner of the Sydney Taylor Award for Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba

“This splendid memoir depicts the growing dangers and the hardship of postwar life for a Jewish family in Soviet-controlled Bucharest, where religion is assailed as superstition, education is communist doctrine, dissent is dangerous, and the sanctity of private life nonexistent. The family is eccentric and argumentative, but humor and love abound, even as they keep secrets from Eva for her own protection. The writing is sharp and beautiful and haunting, and the story one to be read today."
— Susan Campbell Bartoletti,
Newbery Honor author of Hitler Youth


Meghan Cox Gurdon selected six nonfiction titles for young readers that rose above the rest in 2010.  UNDER A RED SKY was among the six!

Gurdon said:

“If 'fiction reveals truth that reality obscures,' as Emerson once said, it's also true that nonfiction can show us reality in ways that are both clear and meaningful. Here, for young readers, are a few of the more absorbing works of nonfiction to have come along in 2010.”

And here’s the bit about the book:

"Haya Leah Molnar grew up in communist Romania after World War II, a place and time she remembers in "Under a Red Sky" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 288 pages, $17.99). Surround ed by evidence of her family's former affluence and of its ambivalence toward the new egalitarian order, the girl eventually makes the astonishing discovery that she is Jewish. When she confides this to her best friend, Andrei, he is incredulous: If she's a Jew, where are the horns on her scalp?"

For the complete article click HERE.

The Wall Street Journal

"Under a Red Sky is full of odd, vivid details from a time and place in Europe that seldom figures in books for young adults."

Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

"In the unsentimental, present-tense narrative voice of her childhood self, Molnar chronicles both her family's experience in rampantly anti-Semitic Communist Romania following WWII, and her personal awakening to her Jewish identity: All I know is that yesterday I wasn't Jewish and today I am."


"In this rich, insightful memoir, Molnar offers a child’s-eye view of life in Romania in the late 1950s. Known as Eva Zimmerman then, she lived in a crowded but loving Bucharest home that included her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They are a lively, eccentric bunch brought vividly to life in a simple first-person, present-tense narration. Especially endearing is Eva’s relationship with her grandfather, who encourages her to embrace her Jewish heritage. Her cinematographer father, a survivor of several concentration camps who lost his parents to the Holocaust, is haunted by his experiences. Eva learns from her grandmother the complicity of Romania’s World War II fascist regime in the murder of thousands of Jews. With anti-Semitism still pervasive in Communist Romania, Eva keeps her Jewish identity secret from classmates when she begins school. The author vividly depicts the harsh realities of life under fascist rule: scarcity of food and housing, ideological indoctrination in school and constant fear of the Securitate, the secret police who are always watching and listening. Black-and-white family photographs illustrate this poignant, memorable memoir."

School Library Journal

Molnar re-creates memories and family stories of living in postwar Romania, fleshing them out with dialogue that, while not exact, remains true to the essence of her experiences, resulting in a readable, informative, and engaging book. The only child living in a crowded flat with seven adults representing three generations, Eva is often the center of attention of her frequently squabbling anti-Communist relatives. Her life becomes more complicated when she discovers at the age of seven that she is Jewish. She tries to understand what this means, particularly in light of her father's undiscussed but hinted-at war experiences, but for once gets little help from her family. In the late 1950s, Eva's family begins the long process of applying to immigrate to Israel, and their applications result in nerve-racking visits from Communist government agents who search their apartment. Once the grandparents leave, a non-Jewish family is assigned to their room, making it unsafe for the family to communicate with one another at home. The drama isn't over when Eva and her parents finally get the chance to leave; a less- desirable route and her father's return for a missing camera cause some tense days. Enough history and background are included to help today's readers understand the context of Eva's family's situation without detracting from the story. The book would make an interesting pairing with Peter Sis's The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain (Farrar, 2007). Photographs of Molnar and her family are included.—Nancy Silverrod, San Francisco Public Library.

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Tablet Magazine, On the Bookshelf

"...setting it in the late 1950s, Molnar reminiscences about the challenges faced by her Holocaust-surviving elders under a repressive regime, and the confusion she felt upon discovering she was Jewish, at the age of 8, when her parents applied for emigration to Israel."

"As Eva pieces together her family’s history, a vivid story emerges; ranging from funny tender moments of family life to the horrific revelations of the Romanian holocaust, about which little has been written….[a] poignant, memorable offering."


Like The Book ThiefUnder a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania is listed as a novel for young readers, but Molnar’s story of her childhood in postwar Communist Romania will be engrossing to adults as well. To read the entire Hadassah Magazine review click on the link and scroll down.