SHAYNA, The Story of a Young Jewish Woman Fleeing Religious Persecution from 1919 UKRAINE & Her Journey To America – A Refugee Story Come To Life


Miriam Ruth Black’s new novel, Shayna, opens in a Ukrainian shtetl one hundred years ago. In a small trunk in the corner of an abandoned shed a young woman huddles hiding from the Cossacks ravaging her shtetl, burning homes, and killing Jews. Shayna Rifkin, seventeen, loses everything. Desperate to find safety, she dreams of reaching America. She rescues her four-year-old nephew and with her fiancé and his mother braves a perilous trek across Europe. Shayna’s courage and determination bind them together, weaving a strong fabric from their separate threads to make a family, a safe place from which to build a new life in a new country.

Shayna is a beautifully written novel with well-crafted, vivid, and realistic characters who linger in readers’ minds eager to discover “what happens next?” Shayna is also an important book about a period of American and Jewish history that is often ignored and forgotten. The vast majority of Jewish people in the U.S. are descendants of the two million Jews who immigrated to the U.S. during that period – between 1880-1920 – the novel evokes memories of ancestors, known and unknown.

Although the riveting events of the novel focus on one family, the themes of the novel are universal, as alive today as they were one hundred years ago: identity, faith, poverty, love, family, anti-Semitism, exploitation of refugees, resilience, and healing, to name a few. One reviewer felt “torn between the competing urges to read on to see what would happen next or to pause, contemplate and even savor what he had just read.”

Black successfully uses occasional Yiddish words to convey authenticity. One reviewer writes, “The author takes extraordinary care to make the meaning clear either from the context or from a smoothly handled translation.” A glossary is included for readers’ convenience.

For more information about the novel and the author, please visit her website,  Shayna, A Novel, is published by Kirk House Publishers, USA, (330 pages, $18.95, available in paperback and e-book, Feb 2022.)

New York Jewish Guide