Sunday, February 14, 2010

Three Books, Six Stories, One War

Just read three books - all historical fiction for young people, all about World War II, all by Canadian authors. AND, all three books are highly recommended reading. They taught me something new and made me want to be a grade six teacher all over again. Such powerful reading!

This Land We Call Home is by Alison Lohans (Pearson Education New Zealand, 2007)
Summer of Fire is by Karen Bass (Coteau Books, Regina, Saskatchewan, 2009)
Stolen Child is by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (Scholastic Books Canada, 2010)

Really, really brief one sentence descriptions:
This Land We Call Home is about the internment of Japanese Americans during the war.
Summer of Fire is about the bombing of Hamburg.
Stolen Child is about the Lebensborn program during Nazi times.

What I really want to talk about is how the authors tackle history. All three books tell two stories in one. In Lohans' book, the narrration switches back and forth between Paula and Ken. Ken speaks in the first person and Paula speaks in the third. At first I admit to finding this confusing, but I caught on. Both stories happen in parallel time, but different locations. This book would be a good companion to the Canadian Japanese experience - so aptly told in Naomi's Road by Joy Kogawa.

In Bass's book, the two stories are from different times, but again, one story is in first person - a diary form - and the contemporary story is told in third person. The geographical setting is mostly the same for both stories in this book and I love the contemporary reality. The author's obviously familiar with Hamburg. (The diary portion reminds me of White Ribbon - a recent Golden Globe winner and also of the nonfiction book Life and Death in the Third Reich that I've recently read.) There's a connection with the Lebensborn program in the book and this brings me to the third of this little series here.

In Skrypuch's book, the two stories come from within the same character. The young girl has flashbacks and dreams that reveal a history she's repressed. The Lebensborn program is shocking and hasn't had a lot of publicity. As far as I'm aware, there's only been one other book on this disturbing subject. It's by Joan Wolfe, and called, Someone Named Eva The immigrant experience comes across loud and clear in Skrypuch's book. I remember the disappointment of eating yuchy, white "wonderbread" myself. My brother and I used to roll it up and make mini- snowballs (but I digress).

So, history told through diaries, through letters, through flashbacks, through great writing through the eyes of young characters. I don't recall history being so interesting when I went to school.

All three books also introduce foreign words and culture. I come away from these books with a spattering introduction to Japanese, German, and Ukrainian words. These books are simply must-reads!

And reading them together, like I have, has only intensified my appreciation of them.

3 comments:

Authors' Booking Service said...

Hi Gabe,

Marsha Skrypuch here. I adore the writing of Alison Lohans, so I will be sure to pick up this latest of hers. I read Run Like Jager, by Karen Bass, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This newest sounds just as good.

I was wowed by your novel, The Kulak's Daughter. It is also a story told in first person about a time that few people know about. And the time -- just before WWII -- gives context to these three that you've just highlighted.

On a personal note, I am delighted that you enjoyed Stolen Child. Writing it was like blood on the page, and experience you are also familiar with.

Kudos.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Yes, Marsha - I do understand blood on the page. But your book shows only the polished finish. I couldn't put it down - especially near the end when she was getting so close to her truth. Excellent work - again!!

I understand that Alison Lohans book is only available through the author - I got my copy at the Prairie Horizon's conference.

And thanks for the positive about my book - it's still not on Amazon, so I'm a bit down on this whole publishing experience.

Authors' Booking Service said...

Don't you worry, Gabe. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and The Kulak's Daughter is the kind of novel that will travel far that way.