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Month 8: Wartime
Read about living during wartime. Bonus: Choose a book that is written from a non-American perspective.
The Zookeeper's Wife by
When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes.With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.
On Hitler's Mountain by
Growing up in the beautiful mountains of Berchtesgaden -- just steps from Adolf Hitler's alpine retreat -- Irmgard Hunt had a seemingly happy, simple childhood. In her powerful, illuminating, and sometimes frightening memoir, Hunt recounts a youth lived under an evil but persuasive leader. As she grew older, the harsh reality of war -- and a few brave adults who opposed the Nazi regime -- aroused in her skepticism of National Socialist ideology and the Nazi propaganda she was taught to believe in. In May 1945, an eleven-year-old Hunt watched American troops occupy Hitler's mountain retreat, signaling the end of the Nazi dictatorship and World War II. As the Nazi crimes began to be accounted for, many Germans tried to deny the truth of what had occurred; Hunt, in contrast, was determined to know and face the facts of her country's criminal past. On Hitler's Mountain is more than a memoir -- it is a portrait of a nation that lost its moral compass. It is a provocative story of a family and a community in a period and location in history that, though it is fast becoming remote to us, has important resonance for our own time.
Night is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie's wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author's original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man's capacity for inhumanity to man. Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.
Zlata's Diary by
The personal journal of an accomplished 11-year-old Sarajevan girl whose world was shattered by the chaos and terror of war.
Internment Camps and Prisoners of War
Looking Like the Enemy by
The author at 16 years old was evacuated with her family to an internment camp for Japanese Americans, along with 110,000 other people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast. She faced an indefinite sentence behind barbed wire in crowded, primitive camps. She struggled for survival and dignity, and endured psychological scarring that has lasted a lifetime. This memoir is told from the heart and mind of a woman now nearly 80 years old who experienced the challenges and wounds of her internment at a crucial point in her development as a young adult. She brings passion and spirit to her story. Like "The Diary of Anne Frank," this memoir superbly captures the emotional and psychological essence of what it was like to grow up in the midst of this profound dislocation and injustice in the U.S. Few other books on this subject come close to the emotional power and moral significance of this memoir. In the end,the reader is buoyed by what Mary learns from her experiences and what she is able to do with her life. In 2005 she becomes one more Nissei who breaks her silence.
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and hum∨ brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
Faith of My Fathers by
In a family memoir, the Navy veteran and U.S. senator describes the military careers of his grandfather and father, both four-star admirals, his own experiences as a POW in Vietnam, and his political career, examining the relationship between fathers and sons and how it shaped his feelings about honor.