Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Monday, November 15, 2021

Memoir Monday...

When I Grow Up by Ken Krimstein... New Yorker cartoonist Ken Krimstein’s new graphic nonfiction book, based on six of hundreds of newly discovered, never-before-published autobiographies of Eastern European Jewish teens on the brink of WWII―found in 2017 hidden in a Lithuanian church cellar.

These autobiographies, long thought destroyed by the Nazis, were written as entries for three competitions held in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, just before the horror of the Holocaust forever altered the lives of the young people who wrote them.

Collected in three contests sponsored by *YIVO in the 1930s, they were part of the institute’s drive to gather information about the everyday lives of Jewish adolescents amid political and economic turmoil. Young people of all education, class, occupation and political affiliation were asked to write about themselves, their families and their relationship with them, their teachers and schools, boyfriends and girlfriends and youth and political organizations. The stories were anonymous — the authors submitted their names separately for the purpose of the prizes — and they were urged not to embellish

In When I Grow Up, Krimstein shows us the stories of these six young men and women in riveting, almost cinematic narratives, full of humor, yearning, ambition, and all the angst of the teenage years. It’s as if half a dozen new Anne Frank stories have suddenly come to light, framed by the dramatic story of the documents’ rediscovery.

Beautifully illustrated, heart-wrenching, and bursting with life, When I Grow Up reveals how the tragedy that is about to befall these young people could easily happen again, to any of us, if we don’t learn to listen to the voices from the past.

This work by Ken Krimstein has gotten a lot of buzz. It's interesting that a graphic novel is what was chosen to bring these stories to life, but this form may make these stories more accessible. I look forward to reading this, but am not sure if I will be able to enjoy the life they are sharing with the knowledge of what was to come. With the essays being submitted anonymously, but their names still recorded, I wonder if we will find out what ultimately happens to these young people. Or maybe we aren't suppose to find out, but feel the connection of these essays to our own youth.

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing and in bookstores tomorrow, November 16th.

*YIVO, acronym for Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institute in Vilnus, or the INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH RESEARCH is dedicated to the preservation and study of the history and culture of East European Jewry worldwide. 

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