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Reviewed by Tiffany Ferrell for Readers' Favorite
Ashes by Sharon Gloger Friedman tells the story of a young Jewish girl named Miriam who lives in Czarist Russia with her parents and older brother Eli. During this time in Russia, there was a lot of hostility towards the Jews for many reasons. One is that they blamed the Jews for the assassination of Alexander II. Miriam’s father Meyer is well aware of the anti-semitism because the riots that followed the murder of the Czar resulted in both of his parents being brutally murdered. The hostility and hatred brew to a boiling point once more when a boy a few towns away is found murdered. The Christian Russians blame the Jews for using the boy as a sacrifice. What started as looting soon becomes mobs seeking blood and revenge. The anti-semites destroyed many things, and when they finally descended upon Miriam’s home, her brother Eli is murdered. After the deaths of his son and best friend as well as Meyer murdering a man to protect his family, he felt the best place for them was America. To start a new life and to get away from prejudice but is it a new life?
I really enjoyed Ashes. I always knew there was a dislike of the Jewish population in Russia but reading it made me see it through Miriam’s eyes and it really made an impression on me. I loved the characters and how they are portrayed. They are very realistic and many people’s great-grandparents could relate to the issues that they faced while coming to America. I also loved how much research Friedman did on the factories of that period and the horrible conditions that many women and children faced. Reading about Miriam’s daily life in the factory and the cruelty and injustice she witnessed and experienced herself hits the reader more than reading it in a history book. It’s not personal and there’s no connection. With Ashes, you develop a bond with the characters and their lives and their experiences hit you in a way a regular history book can’t.