A harrowing escape from Nazi persecution followed by growing up as an immigrant in a troubled family, cloud a young girl's childhood.
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Six-year-old ILSE watches nazi troops march down her street in Vienna, Austria. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will take her to Riga, Latvia, and finally to Portland, Oregon. Becoming Alice chronicles her Jewish family's harrowing escape and struggle as immigrants to fit into the American landscape. The added problems of growing up within a troubled family cloud her childhood and adolescence.
A lady from the HIAS came to help Papa enroll me at Abernethy School. We went down a long hallway on a slick, brown linoleum floor, waxed to shine linke a mirror, and entered a door marked "OFFICE." Mr. winters, the principal, was waiting for us. He had not a single hair on the top of his head, and only a hint of a jawbone--it made his head look like a giant light bulb. He knew I'd never been to school before, that I'd spent two years in Riga, and that I didn't speak a word of English. He looked at me with hooded eyes; the straight line that was his mouth didn't move. He had no idea what to do with me. I needed to start in kindergarten, but (at age eight) I was at least a foot taller than any five year old and even a bit chubby at that. He could put me into a third grade class, but not knowing how to read or write or speak English was like putting a retarded deaf-mute into a normal school. Mr. winters put me into the third grade.