Jose Patterson on the origins of her newest novel, My Aunt Manya
I live in the university city of Oxford which, by its very nature, always has a ‘floating’ population of visiting scholars. It was always the custom for my late husband and I to invite guests to share Friday night – the beginning of the Sabbath day – with us. During one never to be forgotten Friday night dinner when the conversation was buzzing, our American friend Susie told us about her grandmother, Sarah who was 11 years old in 1891 and lived near the Russian town of Bialystok. Her father had gone to New York to stay with his sister while he looked for work, leaving Sarah behind with her hated stepmother. Her young life changed forever when she heard from her Aunt the sad news of her father’s sudden death. Her Aunt sent her a boat ticket, some money and the offer of a home. Sarah fled the pogroms and set off alone on the long hazardous journey to Ellis Island. When she finally arrived she learned that her Aunt had died the week before. She was saved from the threat of deportation by her aunt’s two close friends.
These are the few treasured facts on which I based the story of My Aunt Manya which some reviewers – including Clare Morpurgo – have likened to the plight of modern immigrants. As I have mentioned it is indeed a fascinating story and I do hope you will enjoy reading it.
Release notes of My Aunt Manya
José Patterson’s latest children’s story details the journey of Sarah a ten-year old immigrant making her way to America (Based on a true story)
From acclaimed children’s author José Patterson comes a new story that will hit home.
Set in Russia at the end of the 19th century, My Aunt Manya is a period novel featuring heroine Sarah, who lives unhappily with her much-hated stepmother. Sarah’s father has gone to live in New York with his sister Manya while he looks for a job. Sarah’s life changes overnight when Aunt Manya writes with news that her father has been killed in an accident. She sends her a boat ticket, some money and an offer of a home.
Sarah’s family and friends are poor, Yiddish-speaking Russian Jews. When Sarah’s friends get word that a group of Cossacks is planning a pogrom attack, they lose no time in helping her to set out alone on the longest journey of her young life.
My Aunt Manya is a heart-warming story of Sarah’s journey to America on the ‘other side of the world.’ She becomes an immigrant with just one goal – to live with her Aunt Manya in a free country. Sarah faces difficulties and dangers of the unknown with great courage and determination which, together with the ‘hand of fate,’ combine to make this an unforgettable story. Released during a time where immigration is a hotly-debated topic in the UK, My Aunt Manya will show young readers what it is truly like to be an immigrant.
José’s first novel, No Buts, Becky! was a runner up in the People’s Book Prize Award Competition and finalist in the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards 2013.