Johanna's Books


The Upstairs Room is the story of my time in hiding (close to three years) as a Jewish child in Holland during WWII.

A family of farmers, who had never seen me or my sister, risked their lives by taking us in.  They even kept us when German soldiers took over the downstairs part of the house.

From the Critics about The Upstairs Room

“ . . . a fine autobiographical novel . . . Believable characterizations of unremarkable people who survived, if not thrived, and displayed an adaptability and generosity probably beyond their own expectations”

School Library Journal


"This admirable account is important in every aspect as the one bequeathed to us by Anne Frank."

Elie Wiesel, The New York Times Book Review
“. . . Reiss writes a stirring, fictionalized account of her own experiences as a Jewish girl during WWII.”

Publishers Weekly


Honors for The Upstairs Room

Newbery Honor Book 1973
Outstanding Book of 1972 (New York Times)
Notable Children’s Books of 1971-1975 (American Library Association)
Best Books of 1972 (School Library Journal)
Children’s Books 1972  (Library of Congress)
Jewish Book Council Children’s Book Award
School Library Journal Best Book
Jane Addams Book Award Honor Book
Buxtehuder Bulle  (Outstanding Children’s Book Promoting Peace, Germany)

The Upstairs Room: Theater, Film and TV

In 2009, The Upstairs Room was made into a play in Holland. We are actively seeking a producer for an English language film or TV production.

A Note from the Author on the Recent German Translation of The Upstairs Room

Thank you Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag for the brand-new, authentic, uncensored translation of The Upstairs Room, Und im Fenster der Himmel, so that German readers finally get to know the complete story.

To Purchase The Upstairs Room

HarperCollins (1972-present). Available in hardcover at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon in hardcover, in paperback, as an e-book at Amazon (Graymalkin Media) and at Barnes and Noble as an e-book for the Nook, as an audio CD, narrated by the author, at Recorded Books, as well as from your favorite bookstore.


In The Journey Back, the sequel to The Upstairs Room, Annie (my nickname as a kid) and Sini are finally free: WWII and the Holocaust are over. 

The year is 1945.  Father and Rachel, our sister, also survived.  We reunite in our hometown and start living together again.  It is not easy, we have become strangers to one another. 

There are disagreements, hurt feelings.  First Sini leaves, then Rachel, I can’t, I’m only 13, who has to get used to being in school again and to having a stepmother. 


From the Critics about The Journey Back

"Johanna Reiss’ moving sequel to The Upstairs Room is a vivid testimony to all whose lives were changed forever by WWII.  ...this story of a Jewish family struggling to reunite after three years of separation and hiding from the Nazis becomes a very personal account of a young girl’s coming of age in war-torn Holland."

To Purchase The Journey Back

Available in paperback at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon in paperback, as an e-book at Amazon (Graymalkin Media) and at Barnes and Noble as an e-book for the Nook, as an audio CD, narrated by the author, at Recorded Books as well as from your favorite bookstore.


DFNIn February 1953, a storm as big as Holland had ever had crept in under the cover of night, hit an area off the southwest coast, especially the low-lying island of Schouwen Duiveland, destroying almost everything in its path. The death list was long. That Fatal Night focuses on a hamlet where 42 out of the 120 people drowned. And how those who lived through it managed to do that. It is my writing but their story.

Bzztoh, (1988) Out of print

From the Critics about That Fatal Night

“Reiss manages to keep the reader captivated until the last lines.”
“Reiss’ powerful, no-nonsense style is a relief.”
“An eloquent, gripping story of a hamlet during the flood of 1953.”
“A touching story.”



 A Hidden Life is the story of my coming to America at age 23, of meeting someone, an American, Jim, who becomes my husband and the father of my two daughters. It was his idea that I write The Upstairs Room

In 1969, to get started on the book, I went to Holland, taking my girls, seven and nine, with me. While  we were there, Jim killed himself in New York.  In A Hidden Life, I write what it was like to have to move on again.

From the Critics about A Hidden Life

Algemeen Dagblad, Netherlands

“ . . . a searing journey.”
Leslie Garis, The New York Times Book Review
A Hidden Life explores memory, violence and survival – and how well we can really know another person.  Johanna’s story is so sad, her hurt so palpable, it will take your breath away.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“As compelling  and readable as a traditional mystery . . .”
Jewish Exponent                                                                       

A Hidden Life shows that working through traumas can lead to a moving literary work.”
Quinta, Netherlands
“Concise, evocative prose.” 
Diane Cole, Lilith                     
“. . . beautifully expressed attempt to put life’s unruly events into order.”
Jewish Book World                    

Honors for A Hidden Life

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, March 1, 2009

To Purchase A Hidden Life

Available in hardcover at Amazon.