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[DiverseKidLit] A Left-Handed Immigrant Girl from Russia and her Secret Tribe

"Anya's Secret Society" by Yevgenia Nayberg.

Myra here.

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Anya’s Secret Society

Written and Illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg
Published by Charlesbridge Publishing (2019)
ISBN: 1632897091 (ISBN13: 9781632897091) Book was borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.

Based on the author-illustrator’s growing up years in Russia, this is the story of young, creative-minded Anya whose being a lefty made her an oddity in the largely traditional Russian society she lived in.

The story showed how well-meaning adults, neighbours, strangers would comment on Anya’s preference to use her left hand – and how she was made to feel that she is doing something terribly wrong:

One upstairs neighbor told her, ‘The right hand is the right hand.’ One downstairs neighbor called up to her, ‘The left hand is the wrong hand.’

I sympathized with Anya who learned how to write with her right hand, yet has continued to use her left hand for drawing and creating her art, albeit secretly. She comforted herself by forming a make-believe clandestine society of notable artists (exclusively male though, like Michaelangelo, Rembrandt, and Da Vinci) who also used their left hand.

Her eventual transformation and sense of being right despite being a lefty only happened when they moved from Russia to the United States. There, she felt a greater sense of freedom and acceptance, since her being left-handed was considered a non-issue, and she was never scolded by her teacher, who was also a bit of an oddball himself.

I especially found the Author’s Note to be quite fascinating as Nayberg shared how her own made up “secret society” as a young child provided her with a measure of belonging she did not always find in the community she grew up in. As Nayberg noted:

An artist spends a lot of time in her secret world. It’s easy to be happy there. Falling in love with the real world is another story. To do that, sometimes you need to cross the ocean and experience new places and new people. Other times, it’s just a matter of growing up.

This is a must-read and must-own title. A very clear example of how our imagination can ultimately serve as our redemption.

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#WomenReadWomen2019: 31 (target: 25) Yevgenia Nayberg is originally from Russia but now based in USA.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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