The Blackbird Girls

  • Type: Books
  • By: Anne Blankman
  • Age Category: Children
  • Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Recommended by: Tom S.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9781984837356
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In the aftermath of Chernobyl

Valentina and Oksana are classmates - but far from friends - when they and the entire population of the Ukrainian city of Pripyat are forced to evacuate following an accident at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power station.    Circumstances force the unlikely pair of fifth graders to take refuge in Leningrad, where Valentina’s estranged grandmother welcomes them to her bleak little apartment.  What with nuclear disaster, the loss of beloved family members, homelessness, and interpersonal animosity, the girls’ lives appear to be completely shattered.

And yet there is hope.  Valentina’s grandmother may be no-nonsense, but she is also warm and loving.  Furthermore, the barrier between the girls – Valentina’s Judaism and Oksana’s aversion to it – begins to break down as Oksana sees beyond the mindless antisemitism that was literally beaten into her by her cruel parents.

Besides being a well-wrought story of survival, The Blackbird Girls is a fascinating look at government repressiveness in late Soviet-era Russia.  Valentina, Oksana, and their supporters exist in an environment of constant suspicion, where they must assume that they are constantly being watched and that any unusual behavior will be reported to the authorities.

This book would be a great choice for readers who enjoy Eugene Yelchin.