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Sam I Am - Ilene Cooper When Sam’s dog knocks over the “Hanukkah bush” – his family’s Christmas tree – he knows that the holidays this year won’t be the same. Because his mother is Episcopalian and his father is Jewish, Sam’s family, which also includes an older sister and younger brother, have celebrated the holidays as a compromise. The absence of the Hanukkah bush this year, however, bring up dormant family tensions and cause Sam to think seriously for the first time about religion. At the same time, Sam has begun a Holocaust unit in school, gets his first girlfriend, and watches his best friend prepare for his bar mitzvah, all of which lead to reflections on God and his dual religious heritage. In this way, “Sam I Am” is slightly reminiscent of “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.” Though it perhaps would have been better told in first person, the novel is a realistic and optimistic story.