‘I AM SASHA’ by Anita Selzer – Book Reading – Jeffreys Books, Melbourne
Review by Sumaiya Rizvi – @melbourne_blog
Images Courtesy of Helen Reizer / HRPR
Anita Selzer’s latest book ‘I Am Sasha’, recently launched at Jeffreys Bookstore / jeffreysbooks.com.au in Malvern.
The book is based on the memoir of the author’s grandmother, who in 1994 said ‘I want the world to know how we survived the war. You are becoming a writer. Promise me you will write our story and have it published,’ recalls Ms. Selzer. This was her Grandmother’s dying request as she handed over the memoir.
During that time the author was completing a Doctorate in Gender and History, and raising her three kids, whilst working on her other books. Securely stored away in a drawer, the memoir sat for years. Drawn to search for it some two decades on, Ms. Selzer was astonished to discover details of her family’s past when reading her grandmother’s memoir for the first time.
The memoir was fragmented, recorded in the style of a journal, but nevertheless held a compelling story about ‘Sasha’, a story waiting to be told. The author researched the history of World War 2 and the Holocaust to fill in the many gaps in her grandmother’s memoir, having to imagine how the main character ‘Sasha’ felt, and his thoughts during this period of wartime history.
Grandmother Larissa, was widowed and lived in Poland with her son ‘Sasha’, aged nine when the war broke out in 1939. A few years later their lives were at risk, with limited chance of survival. As a last ditch attempt to protect her son, Larissa changed his identity and appearance to resemble a girl of his age. She trains him to dress, talk and behave like a girl. It was guaranteed that if he was a girl, the Nazi’s wouldn’t check on circumcision. This was the best chance of survival, and considering she had lost her husband, this resolute mother was determined to keep her son alive.
Anita Selzer is the only surviving child of ‘Sasha’, and believes she has a duty to her Father. A book that took around five years to complete, ’I Am Sasha’ is a profound read – a story that sits close to the author’s heart.
‘I Am Sasha’ is an insightful story of a courageous Holocaust survivor – a beautiful book about a Mother’s love.
About the Author
Anita Selzer writes non-fiction for children and adults. Her interest is in women and history. She has written about Australian sportswomen who achieved at high levels including the Olympics: athletes, basketballers, golfers, hockey players, netballers and swimmers; girls’ education in Australia; governors’ wives in Australia; and the pastoral pioneers of Como House.
Before becoming a writer, Anita was a teacher of English and Politics and completed Masters and Doctorate degrees in Education, focusing on gender and history. Anita is married with three children and lives in Melbourne.
Title: I Am Sasha
Author: Anita Selzer
Genre: Historical Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: 2nd April, 2018
**Sumaiya was a guest of Helen Reizer / HRPR
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