I just recently read Kathryn Lasky's Ashes, and, as a librarian, I have to say it hit home, mainly because of the strong focus on books. Ashes is about a thirteen-year-old German girl growing up in Berlin just as Adolf Hitler is coming into power. Gabriella Schramm's father is the chairman of the Department of Photoastonoy at the University of Berlin. Her mother is a pianist, and her sister Ulla, also a gifted musician, has recently turned away from her studies to focus more on boys. The world is changing around Gaby just as she is beginning to grow up. The years 1932-1933 thrust her into moments of adulthood which she writes about in her Diary of Shame. Moments that either made her feel uncomfortable, or times when she thought she could have reacted better to a situation. Most of those situations dealt with something to do with the growth of the Nazi party in Germany.
Gaby spends much of her time reading books that the Nazis will soon label as being subversive. Soon both her beloved books and her Jewish friends, including Albert Einstein, are under attack. While some might claim the book burning to be the defining moment, I focused more on the librarian Frau Grumbach, and her refusal to hand over the names of students who checked out "questionable" books to Fraulein Hofstadt. Frau Grumbach disappeared the next day and was never seen again. As a librarian myself, of course that was going to make me think of my own responsibility towards my patrons. And wondering if I would have the guts to make a stand about something I know is fundamentally wrong, or would I go along with it in order to cause the least harm to myself by not standing out. Oo, ethics. Of course, I can really just hope that I'm never in that situation.
I also enjoyed that this book was written from a gentile's perspective from that time period. It always seemed like the books I read about World War II when I was a child/young adult mainly featured Jewish or other persecuted people. I think there should be more like this. It was like how I learned at a young age from Bette Greene's Summer of My German Soldier that not all German people were evil Nazis (besides, who wouldn't get a youthful crush on Anton).
I am participating in Centreville's teen summer reading program this year as they are doing "Team Teen" vs "Team Adult" where as Kent Island is doing the middle schoolers vs the high schoolers. I'm kind of glad that I'm not doing it in Kent Island because the high schoolers already have over 4000 pages read-and that was done by just one girl this past week! I would so lose to her.
I am getting ready to have our first adult summer reading book discussion this Tuesday evening. I hope it goes well! I'm not the best at public speaking, so hopefully I will as all the right questions to get the discussion humming and I won't have to talk again. I wish! The book we are doing this time is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Later in the summer it is The Hunger Games. I'm quite looking forward to that one. If anyone will actually show up for them.