About the Book
Eighteen-year-old Elli has a number tattooed onto her arm. It is an indelible remnant of a terrifying past… a life lived, for many years, in the death camp of Auschwitz. When Elli arrives in New York City, she can not speak English, and has no high school diploma and very little money. What Elli does have, however, is courage, perseverance, and a loving family. Elli’s challenges in her adopted home are great. She must not only acclimate herself to a whole new culture but, more importantly, must acclimate herself to life outside of a concentration camp. With the help of family and new friends, Elli, like the proverbial phoenix, rises from the ashes of a world torn asunder, to face, and ultimately embrace, a new life in a new land.
- Elli’s father said of his daughter: “She has perseverance. Sometimes, in the long run, perseverance gets you farther than a good head.” What do you think Elli’s father meant by this? Do you agree or disagree?
- Throughout the novel, the author infers that Elli is a person of great courage. Discuss how the author reveals Elli’s courageousness to the reader through her behavior. Provide some specific instances where Elli’s bravery is illustrated.
- Elli is surprised to learn that American citizens are not required to carry ID cards. Alex tells her that the only purpose of ID cards is to make you feel suspect and controlled. Do you agree or disagree with Alex’s assertions? Under what circumstances, if any, do you think it is justified for a free society to require its citizens to carry an official identification card?
- Elli is reprimanded by her principal and accused of telling her students “horror stories” regarding the tattooed number on her arm. What does the principal advise her to do? At what age do you think students are old enough to learn about humankind’s darkest moments?
- Hello, America is written in the first-person present tense. Why do you think the author chose this particular voice? How would the story change if the author selected a different point of view? In small groups, assign students a specific chapter from the book and have them rewrite it from either the third-person omniscient or third-person limited points of view.
- We hear Elli say: “Ever since that fateful day when Dr. Joseph Mengele, the Angel of Death in Auschwitz, pulled me out of the line leading to the gas chambers, I’ve been plagued by an agonizing guilt: why me?” Elli, like many survivors of the Holocaust, suffers from survivor guilt. Investigate this psychological phenomenon further by reading personal accounts of other survivors of Auschwitz.
- Throughout the book we see that the preservation of cultural and religious traditions are very important to Elli and her family. Write a short descriptive piece that tells about the cultural traditions of your family and how these traditions are observed and honored.
- In the aftermath of the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands of survivors, like Elli, were left homeless and classified as “displaced persons.” In an attempt to help alleviate the problem, President Truman signed the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. In a small group, research both the European and American responses to the problems of displaced persons, and how this is connected to the creation of Israel.