Holodomor Books to Read This Fall 2023

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Holodomor90 Staff

The Holodomor was more than a dark chapter in history. It was a genocide spurred by the Soviet Union and it killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s. Although the Soviets denied the existence of this man-made famine for decades, historians, researchers and authors have written numerous books to help people understand the complexities, reasons, and stories behind this event. 

Whether you’re an academic, an adult looking for comprehensive non-fiction, a young adult searching for a captivating story, or seeking material for children, there’s something available for you. 

The following books offer a wide range of perspectives and are valuable resources for anyone looking to dive deeper into this genocide as we commemorate its 90th anniversary. Understanding the Holodomor is essential to recognizing the impacts of unchecked power, the importance of memory, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Top Five Most Essential Books on the Holodomor

If you were to read just a few titles about the Holodomor to understand what happened, the following works should be on the list. Even 90 years after one of the world’s worst genocides, new information is always being uncovered, and new perspectives are being shared. This list is selected by leading Holodomor historians at the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) with an eye toward compelling narratives, fact-based stories, and works that reflect universal truths.

1. Anne Applebaum, Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine

2. Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine

3. Norman Naimark, Stalin’s Genocides

4. Bohdan Klid & Alexander J. Motyl, The Holodomor Reader: A Sourcebook on the Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine

5. Miron Dolot, Execution by Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust 

Top Historical Fictions on the Holodomor, including Children & Young Adult Books

1. Marsha Skrypuch, Winterkill

2. Katherine Marsh, The Lost Year

3. Erin Litteken, The Memory Keeper of Kyiv

4. Kat Karpenko, The Photograph

5. Lysenko & Galadza, Five Stalks of Grain

6. Michael Cherkas, Red Harvest

7. Carola Schmidt, Tell Me A Story Babushka

8. Lesa Melnyczuk, Baba’s Chooks

Books For Children on the Holodomor (Kindergarten to Grade 3)

Genocide is a difficult subject to broach with children. But, that does not mean it should be avoided. Research shows that kids learn and absorb all kinds of information at an early age that can shape their perception and understanding of the world years into the future. The following works put history into context in age-appropriate ways.

Enough, by Marsha Skrypuch

This heart-warming Ukrainian folktale, set during the Great Famine of the 1930s, tells of a young girl’s attempts to save her village from starvation.

Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2003

Tell Me A Story Babushka, by Carola Schmidt

When a little girl asks her Baba to tell her a story about a princess and a monster what she
hears is so much more — the true tale of the arrest and deportation of her grandmother’s
family to a concentration camp in Siberia during the Holodomor.

Reycraft Books, 2022

Baba’s Chooks, by Lesa Melnyczuk

A wonderful tale tells of a family crisis, sadness, love, friendship and hope through the eyes of four brown hens and their Ukrainian owner Baba Helen.

Serenity Press, 2021

Bottle of Grain: A Holodomor Story, by Rhea Good

A moving and age-appropriate story that introduces children to the tragedy of the Holodomor while focusing on hope, resilience, and the human spirit.

Independently Published, 2020

Threads: Zlata’s Ukrainian Shirt by Lina Maslo

An inspiring picture book about a girl’s survival of the 1930s Ukrainian Famine-Genocide, messaging hope, pride for one’s heritage, and context for today’s War in Ukraine.

Straus and Giroux, 2024

Literature on the Holodomor for Middle Grades (Grades 3-6)

Winterkill by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

A gripping piece of historical fiction set during the Holodomor. The story follows young characters as they navigate the challenges of this period. The novel encapsulates Ukrainians’ struggle and tenacity during the famine.

Scholastic Press, 2022

The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine by Katherine Marsh

A 2023 contender for the New Yorker’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, The Lost Year is a poignant tale of a young person’s experience during the famine, demonstrating strength, resilience, and the will to survive against all odds.

Roaring Book Press, 2023

Young Adult Literature on the Holodomor (Grades 7-12)

Literature about adolescent Ukrainians during the Holodomor, allows young adult readers to connect personally with the historical tragedy. By seeing themselves in the characters, they gain a deeper understanding of the event’s impact. These are a few good works for young adults:

The Photograph, by Kat Karpenko

Set in Ukraine in 1928 against the backdrop of Stalin’s rise to power and the catastrophic Holodomor, this historical novel delves deep into the lives of a family torn between staying and leaving.

BookBaby, 2020

Stones Under the Scythe, by Olha Mak

Through the eyes of 15-year-old Andriy, readers are immersed in the real-life horrors of the Holodomor, which the author herself witnessed during her university years. But this isn’t just a tale of sorrow; Mak intricately weaves hope and resilience into her narrative, proving that even in the darkest moments, the human spirit remains unyielding.

iUniverse, Inc., 2011

Literature on the Holodomor for Senior Grades and Adults (Grades 11-12)

Philipovna: Daughter of Sorrow, by Valentina Gal

A creative non-fiction based on thr author’s mother’s surviving the Holodomor. It is the story of an orphan who goes to live with her aunt in a rural village in the Ukrainian countryside.

MiroLand Publishers, 2019

The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken

A blend of historical events and imaginative fiction, this book provides younger readers with a keen insight into the era.

Boldwood Books/Blackstone Publishing, 2022

Graphic Novels That Depict Dictatorship and Genocide

This section offers a list of graphic novels that vividly illustrate the horrors of dictatorship and genocide, providing readers with a visually impactful understanding of these topics. By utilizing the unique combination of visual art and narrative, these graphic novels offer an engaging medium to present complex and often heart-wrenching stories.

Five Stalks of Grain (Brave & Brilliant, 29) by Adrain Lysenko & Ivanka Theodosia Galadza

This moving and chilling graphic novel brings the Holodomor front and center to the reader.. In the story, Nadia and Taras set out on an urgent journey to survive after the Soviet regime punished their mother for keeping a mere five stalks of grain.

University of Calgary Press, 2022

Red Harvest, by Michael Cherkas

A fictional story, based on true stories as related to the Ukranian-Canadian author, of Mykola Kovalenko, a Ukrainian immigrant to Canada, who was the only member of his family to have survived the Holodomor.

nbm Graphic Novels, 2023

The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks, by Igort

Written and illustrated by an award-winning artist and translated into English for the first time, Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks is a collection of two harrowing works of graphic nonfiction about life under Russian foreign rule.

Gallery 13, 2016

Dictatorship: It’s Easier Than You Think! by Sarah Kendzior, Andrea Chalupa & Kasia Babis

While not directly about the Holodomor, this book offers insights into the mechanisms of dictatorships, providing context for understanding the political landscape during the famine.

First Second, 6/13/23

Adult Non-Fiction Readings

This section features non-fiction works that offer in-depth analysis and firsthand accounts of the Holodomor. Through rigorous research, personal testimonies, and detailed examinations, these books aim to shed light on the causes, effects, and the human stories intertwined with the Holodomor.

Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum

This compulsively readable narrative recalls one of the worst crimes of the twentieth century and shows how it may foreshadow a new threat to the political order in the twenty-first.

Anchor Books, 2018

Stalin’s Genocides, by Norman Naimark

This book puts forward the important argument that brutal mass killings under Stalin in the 1930s were indeed acts of genocide and that the Soviet dictator himself was behind them.

Princeton University Press, 2011

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder

The definitive history of Hitler’s and Stalin’s politics of mass killing, explaining why Ukraine has been at the center of Western history for the last century.

Basic Books, 2012

The Transformation of Civil Society: An Oral History of Ukrainian Peasant Culture, 1920s to 1930s by William Noll

This academic tome delves deep into the societal transformations leading up to and during the Holodomor, relying on primary source oral histories.  For the first time ever these stories have been translated to English for publication.

McGill-Queen’s University Press, 5/15/23

Contextualizing the Holodomor: The Impact of Thirty Years of Ukrainian Famine Studies by Andrij Makuch & Frank E. Sysyn

A comprehensive examination of the scholarly work surrounding the Holodomor, providing an overview of the state of the field and its evolution.

Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 2015

The Holodomor Reader: A Sourcebook on the Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine by Bohdan Klid & Alexander J. Motyl

An invaluable collection of primary and secondary texts, making it a must-have for any scholar or researcher on the topic.

University of Alberta Press, 2012

Starving Ukraine: the Holodomor and Canada’s Response by Serge Cipko

Through an extensive analysis of newspapers, political speeches, and organized protests, Serge Cipko examines both the reporting of the famine and the Canadian response to it, highlighting the vital importance of journalism and the power of public demonstrations in shaping government action.

University of Regina Press, 2018

The Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine: An Anatomy of the Holodomor by Stanislav Kulchytsky

This book explores the various aspects of the famine, from its origins to its tragic consequences. Kulchytsky’s work is a definitive source in the field of Holodomor studies.

Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 2018

Eternal Memory: Monuments and Memorials of the Holodomor by Wiktoria Kudela-Świątek

An in-depth examination of “places of memory” associated with the Great Famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine, supplemented by photographs from across the globe that highlight both the uniqueness of individual monuments and their commonalities.

University of Alberta Press, 2022

Holodomor in Ukraine, the Genocidal Famine, 1932-1933 by Valentina Kuryliw

Authored by the Director of Education for HREC. This unique book is an education guide on the Holodomor for teachers and students. Spanning 308 pages, this full-color workbook is filled with illustrations, lesson outlines, assignments, timelines, maps, personal accounts, photos, literature, and a list of resources.

Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 2014

Gareth Jones: Eyewitness to the Holodomor by Ray Gamache

Details the experiences and revelations of journalist Gareth Jones, one of the first Westerners to expose the famine.

Welsh Academic Press, 2018

Mr. Jones – The Man Who Knew Too Much: The Life and Death of Gareth Jones by Martin Shipton

A deep dive into the life of the fearless journalist who brought the horrors of the Holodomor to the world’s attention.    

Welsh Academic Press, 2022

Execution by Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust by Miron Dolot

A harrowing account of the Holodomor, shedding light on its scale and impact.

W. W. Norton & Company, 1987

A Candle in Remembrance: An Oral History of the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-1933 by Valentyna Borysenko

Drawing from firsthand accounts, this book offers deeply personal and haunting memories of the famine.

Ukrainian Women’s Leage of America, 2010

Maya’s Memories by Gene Kirichenko

Maya Kirichenko recalls her life between the mid-1920s to the 1950s, including her experiences during the rule of Joseph Stalin, and later, the Nazi Germans who forced her into slave labor.

Thought Lift Media, 2021

Holodomor of 1932-33 in Ukraine: Documents and Materials, by Ruslan Pyrih

This can be found online only now. These are the relevant excerpts:

Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Publishing House, 2008

Harvest of Sorrow, by Robert Conquest

The first full history of one of the most horrendous human tragedies of the 20th century.

Oxford University Press, 1987

How People Live in Soviet Russia: Impressions from a Journey, by Mendel Osherowitch

Mendel Osherowitch’s account describes the widespread discontent, hunger, despair, and poverty he encountered during his visit to Soviet Ukraine in 1932. Translated from Yiddish.

The Kashtan Press, 2020

Two Regimes (A Memoir), by Teodora Verbitskaya

In her memoir, Teodora Verbitskaya describes her life and survival with two young daughters during the imposition of Bolshevik rule in Soviet Ukraine and the Nazi occupation in Mariupol, a city that Russia has virtually destroyed in its current war on Ukraine. Translated by her granddaughter  Lucianne Vanilar.

Kendall-Hunt Publishing, 2023

Other publications

HREC Resources

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