Excerpt from Somewhere in the Unknown World by Kao Kalia Yang, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Somewhere in the Unknown World

A Collective Refugee Memoir

by Kao Kalia Yang

Somewhere in the Unknown World by Kao Kalia Yang X
Somewhere in the Unknown World by Kao Kalia Yang
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    Nov 2020, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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The apartment was filled with photographs of old relatives, of Mama and Papa when they were younger, of Edith and Irina as little children in stiff-looking dresses with big collars, the good times the family had shared. That night the apartment was ringing with the noise from the television show Novogodniy Goluboy Ogonek, New Year's Little Blue Light. The children loved the festive lights and the sparkling trees on the television screen. Irina was especially moved by the music the orchestra played. When the adults on the television held hands and danced in a circle, the four cousins followed suit. When the pretty lady with red lipstick held a microphone and started singing, it was only Irina who held her hand in front of her mouth and sang along.

Irina had no idea that this would be her last New Year's celebration in Minsk.

The Jewish students had been disappearing from school for years. They never said much about where they were going or why, so their fellow students gave little thought to their departures. There were students whom Irina and Edith didn't even know were Jewish until they vanished; when they were gone, all the children would laugh and say it like a joke. "Oh, they're Jewish, too."

Shortly after the new year, on another cold evening, Irina's parents, aunt, uncle, and grandparents gathered around the dining table and talked about how there were so few opportunities for Jewish people in Belarus.

Mama said, "I want Edith and Irina to go to college and get jobs."

Grandma said, "I worry about their basic rights."

Papa said nothing.

Papa's whole family had been killed in the Holocaust. He did not talk about them often, let alone mention how they were killed. When Irina had wanted to ask in the past, Mama had said in a hushed whisper, "It's too painful for Papa. Leave the questions be. It is enough to know that everyone was killed."

Uncle said, "The family beside our apartment are leaving soon."

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Excerpted from Somewhere in the Unknown World by Kao Kalia Yang. Copyright © 2020 by Kao Kalia Yang. Excerpted by permission of Metropolitan Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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