Title: Ester, Called MariaQuery:
Word count: 31,000
Genre: MG Historical
Thirteen-year-old Ester Cordoba leads a double life. Outside her home, she’s “Maria,” a new Christian living in old Lisbon. But away from prying eyes and curious ears, she whispers ancient Hebrew prayers. It’s one more game Ester is good at, like the riddles she loves to make up.
When word comes that the Inquisition has landed in Portugal, Ester’s world unalterably changes. Her grandfather reveals to her why and how their people came to hide their true identity. Ester is proud and excited when she encounters her first open Jew, a handsome boy form Salonika. But she is outraged when he tells her he doesn’t consider her Jewish. Who and what is she then, and what’s the point of living in danger? Even worse, her younger brother, Isaac, may have given away their secret when bullies beat him up.
No matter what else, Ester is still a Cordoba, and she will do anything to protect her family, especially Isaac. Afraid the adults aren’t doing enough to conceal them from the Inquisition, Ester sneaks off to the home of Dona Gracia, the most powerful secret Jew in Lisbon. She agrees to help them. Ester is relieved until she faces the shocking consequence: her parents send her with Dona Gracia. Sailing away to an uncertain future, and leaving her beloved family behind, Ester is on her own to make sense of her parents’ decision to make her go and to answer a question she never imagined she would have to ask: can she truly belong anywhere?
First 250 words:
Who taps my shoulder as if they’re hammering a stake?
“You’re Maria Cordoba, the tailor’s daughter, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Senhora Romero, good morning.” I curtsey. I wish I could run.
She has a blue wart on her chin. Her onion breath dampens my face. At least Isaac isn’t with me. He might say anything.
“Ah, I see you already know who I am, as all devout New Christians should.”
She looks me up and down. I keep my gaze low. I can outsmart her.
“What is your favorite food, child?”
“Mutton and chickpeas, Senhora.” The first thing I think of.
“Tell me, do you add milk to the sauce?”
That would be meat with milk. A trick to find out if we follow the Old Laws. But I’m cleverer. “I don’t prepare the dish, Senhora.”
“Hmmm.” She scratches her ear. “Well, I would like to invite your family to dine with us this Friday night, my dear. Will you be able to join us?”
Friday night, our Sabbath. Another trick. “I’m sure our family is honored by your invitation, Senhora, but we only dine at home.”
Her eyes widen. “Oh really, on Fridays?”
She trapped me. What do I do? I cough while I try to think.
“I meant every night, Senhora. My grandparents tire easily at night and my parents don’t want them to eat alone.”
“I see.” She picks up her skirt. Finally, she’s leaving. Then she lets it go. “You have a brother, don’t you?”Source