An award-winning memoir of a young girl’s childhood in Italy during World War II is now translated with endearing black-and-white illustrations and a moving letter from author Lia Levi, who is still living at age 89.
My name is Lia (if you look at the cover of this book, you’ll see my name on it!) and I want to tell you the story of when I was a little girl.
In sixteen short chapters, six-year-old Lia learns that her life in Torino, Italy, is changing. Sure, Mama and Papa want their little girl to learn to speak up (her voice is as quiet as a bird’s) but soon Mama has other news: the Italian prime minister, Mussolini, no longer wants Jewish children in schools. Next, Papa is fired. And soon, the family must move from city to city until it becomes necessary for them to hide. For five years, Lia; her two small sisters; and her parents are shuffled from place to place as Mussolini’s “racial laws” squeeze the Jewish citizens of Italy.
Lia knows she is Jewish, but knows that Jewish isn’t all she is. She is “just a girl” and she wants to play and go to school and to be able to see her parents just like any other child. Will she ever be able to do any of those things again? The story ends when the war is over, and by then Lia is eleven and views things quite differently. Occasionally, an adult version of Lia addresses the reader to clarify a situation or to reassure the reader that Lia and her family will be okay.
Personal and at times intimate, Just a Girl shows readers not only how crucial historical memory is—but that its mere existence is not enough. It must be transmitted to future generations. Backmatter includes photos and a letter written expressly for American readers.