Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer

Reading Reflections – March 2012


Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

I’m trying to find the right word for my reading experience.  “Enjoyed” doesn’t fit because I obviously didn’t get any pleasure from reading about the horrors that Lina witnessed/went through.

But I did like the book and think it’s important for stories like this to be told.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I liked the story overall.  And I liked the time period in which it was set (1940s).  But I did have some issues.

Firstly, the historical error on page 1, that said Brandon Lee was dead and buried in 1986.  Um…no.  I was in high school when he died (1993), I remember very clearly because some of my friends were obsessed with “The Crow.”

And then the whole computer mention.  Granted, I was just seven in 1986, but I do remember my older brother’s “awesome” Texas Instrument.  He taught himself computer language and played a really spiffy football game with the arrow keys, while I typed short stories, using the tremendous word-processing capabilities.  At no time were we able to use our computer to do a person search, like Henry’s son apparently did.

There were a few other, little errors, but those two really jumped out at me and I think it brought down an otherwise sweet and moving story.

If you’re looking for more stories about forced evacuations and exterminations…

^Wow, that sounds morbid and sadistic.  Obviously, I mean it in a historical/educational sense.  All book descriptions from Goodreads, movies from imdb, in italics.  I cut some of the descriptions b/c they were really long.  Click on links for more details.

Obasan by Joy Kogawa

I haven’t read this yet, but it’s on my TBR-list.

Based on the author’s own experiences, this award-winning novel was the first to tell the story of the evacuation, relocation, and dispersal of Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War.

The Last Jew of Treblinka by Chil Rajchman

My dad was reading this and handed it to me when he finished.  It’s a short book; I was done in a matter of about two hours.  But it’s one of those stories that makes you question humanity and your own survival instincts.

The Nazis kept the fires of Treblinka burning night and day…there was no pretense of work here like in Auschwitz or Birkenau. Only a train platform and a road covered with sand…Chil Rajchman, a young man who survived working as a “barber” and “dentist,” heartsick with witnessing atrocity after atrocity…Rajchman provides the only survivors’ record of Treblinka.

Paper Clips (documentary, 2004)

As a part of their study of the Holocaust, the children of the Whitwell, TN Middle School try to collect 6 million paper clips representing the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis.

The earnestness of these kids…that really got to me.  They asked this seemingly simple question of “how many is six million” because none of them could even comprehend such a large number. I couldn’t, either.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis

I read this years ago for a Resources for Children class – it was one of those moments where I went, “Holy crap, this is a kids book???  This is amazing!”  The drawings are spectacular and it explains history and political ideas in such a way that kids can understand but that will also keep the interest of adults.

Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ’n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities—creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.

The Gendarme by Mark Mustian

The story is fiction, but based on the Armenian genocide (1915-1923).  It’s told from the POV of a former gendarme (military police), so it’s painful to read some of the violent scenes and to connect them with what otherwise seems like a kind, feeble old man.  Don’t be fooled by the description below, this isn’t any sort of love story.

Emmett Conn is an old man, near the end of his life. A World War I veteran, he’s been affected by memory loss since being injured during the war. To those around him, he’s simply a confused man, fading in and out of senility. But what they don’t know is that Emmett has been beset by memories, of events he and others have denied or purposely forgotten.

In Emmett’s dreams he’s a gendarme, escorting Armenians from Turkey. A young woman among them, Araxie, captivates and enthralls him. But then the trek ends, the war separates them. He is injured. Seven decades later, as his grasp on the boundaries between past and present begins to break down, Emmett sets out on a final journey, to find Araxie and beg her forgiveness.

Ararat (movie, 2002)

Interrogated by a customs officer, a young man recounts how his life was changed during the making of a film about the Armenian genocide claims.

I didn’t dislike the movie, but at times there seemed to be too much going on, especially with the young man’s girlfriend.  I felt like that character could have been cut out and more focus given to either the guy’s story or to the film that was being made.

I did like how the filmmaker’s actions raised some important questions.  At one point, he wanted to have Ararat (mountain) in the background of several scenes and his consultant said, “No, it wouldn’t be visible from here.”  And he just sorta brushed the concern away because he was going for interesting instead of accurate.

Rabbit Proof Fence (movie, 2002)

This movie is based on the book, Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington (which I haven’t read, the author is the daughter of one of the girls, Molly).  The notes at the end of the movie said that Molly was taken a second time and again made the journey home by foot.  Pretty amazing.

The remarkable true story of three young girls who cross the harsh Australian desert on foot to return to their home.

Following an Australian government edict in 1931, black aboriginal children and children of mixed marriages were gathered up by whites and taken to settlements to be assimilated…forbidden to speak their native language, forced to abandon their aboriginal heritage…the three girls scared and homesick planned and executed a daring escape from the grim camp…headed for the nearby rabbit-proof fence that stretched over 1,000 miles through the desert toward their home.

Grandpa’s Mountain by Carolyn Reeder

This is one I need to reread, haven’t picked it up in twenty years.  I’m pretty sure it was my parents who handed this book to me, to learn more about what went on in my neck o’ the woods.  The story itself is fiction, but the historical events are real.

It’s not on the scale of the other books/movies I’ve mentioned, but it was a big deal to the people living on the mountain, who were suddenly forced to give up the only place they’d ever known as home.

Carrie has always loved spending summers at her grandparents’ home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Not even the Depression, so much on her mind back home in the city, can change the safe, carefree feeling she gets from the old farmhouse where her grandfather has lived all his life.

But this summer, shortly after Carrie arrives, she finds out that the government is planning to create a national park that will include Grandpa’s mountain, and the state of Virginia is buying up land for the park — and evicting the people who live there.

Grandpa is determined to save his home, and Carrie believes he’ll win his battle. As Grandpa’s increasingly solitary struggle drags on, Carrie learns a lot about the importance of fighting for what you believe in — and knowing when it’s time to move on.

So there’s my mini list – any reading/viewing suggestions for me?

Author: Jennifer Pickrell

I write YA contemporary filled w/ romance, angst & family drama. Things I like: cats, snacks, baseball, green tea, taking pictures of trees & movies so bad, they’re good.

2 thoughts on “Reading Reflections – March 2012

  1. At first I mistook “Between Shades of Gray” with “Fifty Shades of Grey” and was really, really confused. 🙂

    I read HOTEL ON THE CORNER last year and I liked it, but some of those anachronisms gave me pause, too. I also struggled a bit with the voice and writing style–but overall, I liked the story and was glad I read it.

    I just finished THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, which is about the German occupation of Guernsey! I never thought I’d describe a WWII book as delightful but it was, and not in an overly cheerful way.

    • I will have to check out this book you just read!

      And LOL at the “gray” confusion – I was going to recommend the YA book to my mom, but was scared she’d accidentally pick up the other one and be shocked 🙂

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