Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Horrible Truths

I'm not a person who feeds my reading brain a constant diet of horrific things. I am an empathetic person, and it is difficult and painful to read about tragedies. I do believe, however, that there are terrible things that have happened in the history of the world that need to be brought to the surface and examined. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past to keep them from ever happening again. And I won't hesitate to tell you that few things upset me more than to learn a horrible truth about the world that I didn't learn from my public school education or my college education,...or by simply living as long as I have on this earth. It always leaves me dumbfounded and angry...and determined to spread the truth.

Did you know that there were three countries that disappeared off the map of the world in 1941 and did not reappear until 1990? I am ashamed to say I didn't, and I am even more ashamed to say that my education and my extensive reading list never told me about it. All I can do from this point on is make sure another student never leaves my classroom uneducated about this terrible event in history. I believe that Ruta Sepetys is the right person to help us all understand about a little known truth that some people still try to deny to this day.

Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys, tells the story of a teenage girl, Lina, and her family who are driven from their homes in Lithuania by the Soviet secret police. They are shipped on a train in a cattle car to forced labor camps. It is a harrowing journey for the family, and Lina takes us along with her, sharing her thoughts and fears. While Lina's story shines a light on the atrocities suffered by many people at this time in history, it is also a story of endurance and hope. And at the very center of this novel beats the heart of a family who loves each other very much.

The author tells the story in short, direct chapters, and the story moves very quickly, considering the long timeline the journey takes. There are maps and timelines in the front of the book to help readers understand what is taking place in the novel. I believe it is written in a way that makes it easier for young adults to absorb the story and understand it.

Sepetys is a worthy author to write this story, as her own father is a refugee from Lithuania. While this novel is a historical fiction, the heart of the story is deeply embedded in the souls of Ruta Sepetys and her family. Once you read the novel, do not miss out on reading the Author's Note, Acknowledgments, and An Interview with Ruta Sepetys in the back of the book. 

I would also like to encourage you to do your own research. While horrible events in history are not easy to look at, it is only by acknowledging the truth that we learn from it. 

"Success meant survival. Failure meant death. I wanted life. I wanted to survive."
~ Lina, Between Shades of Gray

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