Local author's debut novel wins fourth award

Courtesy photoAuthor Tara Lynn Masih's novel, "My Real Name is Hanna"

The honors just keep on coming for Andover author Tara Lynn Masih.

She has received a fourth award for her debut novel, "My Real Name is Hanna."

The most recent honor, the Julia Ward Howe Award for Young Readers, was given to Masih by the Boston Authors Club.

"I was thrilled to win this award from the Boston Authors Club, which has been around for over 100 years, and to have my name even in this small way associated with Julia Ward Howe is a real honor," Masih said in a written statement. "I love that she was a suffragist and abolitionist. I'm sure if she were around today she'd be fighting for the same things I've tried to promote through my writing."

Completing the novel was a years-long process for Masih. She said the first draft, a messy undertaking, took about 30 days to write. Her first real draft was completed after three months of work.

It then took five to six years to research and make sure the story was 100% historically accurate.

"When you are writing about the Holocaust, you have a duty to get the facts right," Masih wrote. "You want to honor the survivors as much as possible — and especially those who didn't survive — with the truth."

The inspiration for her book came years ago, when Masih watched the documentary "No Place on Earth" with her family. The film tells the story of a Jewish family, the Stermers, who hid in caves in the Ukraine during the Holocaust.

Masih said her family was deeply affected by interviews with family members in the documentary, and the characters stuck in her mind as she went to bed that night.

By the morning, Masih said she knew the first few lines of what would become her novel. The lines were spoken by a fictional girl named Hanna. The family in Masih's book is fictional, but the story is inspired by the true story of the Stermer family.

"I wanted this important piece of history to be read by young people especially, so it was marketed as YA (young adult)," Masih wrote. "It shows how war can encroach slowly, how neighbors can be turned against neighbors, but it mostly shows the power of faith and family and the importance of upstanders."

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