Not Allowed

This post was inspired by the movie Life is Beautiful. It is written in the perspective of a Jewish girl in the 1940’s, around 11 years old.

“No Dogs or Jews Allowed”

The sign was hung in the window of the bookstore that was once my favourite. I fell madly in love with the tales of beautiful princesses, swept away from evil by a charming prince who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes I would hope to meet my prince looking for a book too, but then I remember that most boys look away after they see the yellow star pinned on my jacket.

I don’t understand why the sign says, “No Dogs or Jews Allowed”. I know that having a dog in the bookstore might disrupt the peaceful atmosphere, but why Jews? Father used to take me at the end of each month to buy a new book, even though I always chose ones with almost the same story. We would read them late at night, even though Mother sometimes got mad and told him that I needed to sleep. It was our secret. We never did anything bad in the store! I even used to talk to the lady at the counter; she always said that I was her most loyal customer. Now, when I try and wave to her through the glass, she looks away.

How come the sign doesn’t say, “No Dogs or Mean People Allowed”? There was a boy who lived right next to us named Alexander who never had a kind word to say about anyone. Once, he started hitting me over and over, and wouldn’t stop even when I started crying. I had to beg him to let me get up, because there was no way I could fight off a boy that big. When Father finally came and found me, he didn’t even yell at Alexander. He said that he was only doing it because we were different, because he didn’t understand. We had to move to a different neighborhood the next month. Father said it would be nicer to live with all Jewish people, like a big family. I liked our old house better.

Why am I so different from all the other kids? All of my old friends aren’t allowed to play with me because their parents think that I’m dirty. Last week, I heard a group of other girls make fun of me because I had “a nose too big for my face”. I can’t help what my nose looks like! Some of them have noses that are even bigger than mine, but they don’t make fun of each other. It’s always me. Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like to have blonde hair and light eyes. My hair would glisten in the sunlight and would be soft as velvet. My eyes would remind boys of an ocean, a forest, a magical place they wanted to explore.

Maybe if I looked like the German girls, I would be allowed into that bookstore and a prince could fall in love with me. He might even notice my pretty hair and forget about my nose! I’ll tell Father I want to dye my hair as soon as he gets back. Right now, he’s on an important journey with a few other men who go to the synagogue with us. I hope I see him soon.



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3 thoughts on “Not Allowed

  1. Dear Alysha,

    In this piece I can see the beginning of a voice of innocence, and I must commend you in that it suits you beautifully. There is an easy elegance to your writing that is complemented by such an innocent voice. And it brings a kind of clarity to your work as well. Rather than bogging down your audience with redundancies and flowery language (which does have its place do not get me wrong) you seem to lay all your cards on the table and tell it as it is. This pulls your audience through the piece with ease, and I commend you on this as simple voices are ones I admire but myself have never been able to master.

    Some tips I would like to offer to you is that while simplicity is very powerful, there is advantages to complexities as well, especially when writing with innocent voice about something as complex as the Holocaust. For example, in this work you use a lot of simple sentences, which work very well, but they would be even more impact if they were preceded or followed by a complex sentence discussing a complex issue. This would beautifully juxtapose the innocence of childhood when she discusses simple things and the complexities of the adult reality your narrator is facing. This would also impact your style, adding a maturity to it. That is one of the dangers of writing with innocent eye; it limits your diction, thus limiting your chances to show off how expansive your intelligence is. So, when writing with this sort of style I would offer you consider adding in a more complex structure or symbolism to really highlight your brains as your hands are tied when it comes to word choice.

    That all being said, this piece is a very strong start and I am very excited to see what other forms of writing you have in store!


    1. Dear Megan,

      Sorry for the late reply! First off, thank you so much for your comment. I really enjoyed writing this because it allowed me to slip back into the phase of innocence. I definitely agree with your point about adding more complex sentences and maybe some symbolism into the piece. After reading it again, I feel like I could have added a lot more depth to it. It’s something I’ll work on moving forward.

      Thank you again for reading and commenting, I look forward to reading more of your work as well.

      With love,


  2. Without anti-Semitism (and bigotry in general), certain words, expressions, and signs are intended to help us live and be well. “No dogs allowed” tell us that because dogs might have fleas, disease can be transmitted. We are advised, and required, in some settings, to wash our hands after contact with animals. Putting the word “Jews” on this sign is both implied and direct: Dogs are unclean and create public health issues – which says that Jews are no less unclean. The same goes for “Solution to the problem.” The Nazis “solved” their “problem” through the horrors of the Holocaust ( thankfully, they didn’t succeed. This would be an instance of being happy when someone doesn’t succeed – this context of success is also not the way that success should be viewed, thereby turning otherwise decent views into cruel distortions). If not connected to the Holocaust, solving problems means using skills to make things better. Because the Nazis saw Jews as a problem, they “felt the need” to “make things better.”

    These and other dangerous views must be actively fought and no longer allowed to become “policy” and certainly not to become legal. This is hatred, not simply a matter of expressing preferences. We must make ourselves knowledgeable. Knowledge and correct information are our best friends ; let’s join our best friends to fight our worst enemies.

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