“The Nesting Dolls” (Harper 2014) by Alina Adams––a creative content producer for As the World Turns and Guiding Light, and figure skating researcher for ABC Sports, ESPN, and TNT’s coverage of the 1998 Olympics––was a sweeping historical saga following three generations of Jewish women from Odessa in the USSR to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, weaving their coming-of-age stories about love, sacrifice, and survival.
Her next book, to be published on November 15, “My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region” (History Through Fiction LLC), is set in a time and place very few Jews know anything about: the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (region) in the Russian Far East, bordering Heilongjiang province in China, with an administrative center is the city of Birobidzhan.
At its height, in the late 1940s, the Jewish population that was shipped to the region by Josef Stalin peaked around 46,000–50,000, approximately 25% of the population. By 2010, only 1,628 Jews remained there, less than 1% of the population.
As her revolutionary neighbor mysteriously disappears during Stalin’s Great Terror purges, 18-year-old Regina suspects that she’s the Kremlin’s next target. Under cover of the night, she flees from her parents’ communal apartment in 1930s Moscow to Birobidzhan. Once there, Regina has to grapple with her preconceived notions of socialism and Judaism while asking herself the eternal question: What do we owe each other? How can we best help one another? while she struggles to help Birobidzhan establish itself, with the war on the horizon.
Adams draws on her own experiences as a Jewish refugee from Odessa, Ukraine, offering her readers a rare glimpse into the world’s first Jewish Autonomous Region. “My Mother’s Secret” is rooted in detailed research about a little-known chapter of Soviet and Jewish history, exploring universal themes of identity, love, loss, war, and parenthood. It’s a whirlwind journey as Regina is finding herself against the background of one of the twentieth century’s most tumultuous eras.
The book’s launch, on November 1 will be part of UJA’s Ukraine relief effort.