Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lost in America

Found on the library shelves: Lost in America by Marilyn Sachs.

As a child I was obsessed with the holocaust and my absolute favorite book was Judith Kerr's When Hilter Stole the Pink Rabbit. I would have loved Lost in America as well.

Sachs' Lost in America is told from the point of view of seventeen-year-old Nicole, an French-Jewish escapee from the Holocaust who moves to New York City. The story begins with the last night Nicole ever saw her parents and younger sister (whom, painfully, Nicole mistreats that evening). Nicole narrates her survival in France, move to New York, and her first year in NYC. What is most interesting and compelling about Nicole's story is that all those who assisted her along the way were conflicted in some way or another about helping her to survive. The teacher/headmistress who first protects her actually supported the Germans in theory. Nonetheless she protects Nicole and then helps her to leave her hometown, Aix-les-Bains, when the Germans arrive. Nicole's aunt then takes Nicole in until the Americans arrive to the South of France. Nicole's aunt is a frivolous woman who cares more about boyfriends, cheese, and redecorating Nicole's parents' apartment. The New York cousins who take her in actually don't like her very much and are put out by having (due to peer and familiar pressure) to take her in. But Nicole's spirit never flags and with the help of some good friends and a demanding, yet kind employer, Nicole makes it on her own.

Nicole's voice is straightforward and matter-of-fact. Although she is 17, the book should appeal to middle-graders interested in history and personal stories. Sachs has told a very complex tale simply and in a way young Americans can truly grasp the horrors of the holocaust. Highly recommended.

Speaking of the Holocaust and Holocaust survivers, Simon Wiesenthal died today at the age of 96.