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SieUpon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944gal writes powerfully of her experiences as a Jewish child in Hungary as Hitler came to power. The horror of the Nazi regime, and the power of love and family come to life.

So Far from the Bamboo Grove (rpkg)I’ve read a number of books, written from the Korean perspective, about the Japanese occupation of Korea (Lost Names by Richard E Kim; Whem My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park; Home Was the Land of Morning Calm by K. Connie Kang; Year of Impossible Good-byes and sequels by Sook Nyul Choi). This is the first book I’ve read that tells of the hardships suffered by the Japanese citizens who lived in Korea at the end of World War II.

Yoko Kawashima and her family lived in northern Korea. When World War II ended, they were trapped between communists moving down from Russia, angry Koreans who wanted their homeland back, and the Japanese military who weren’t ready to give up. Yoko, her mother and sister make the dangerous journey south to Seoul and then on to Japan. But once they get to Japan, their struggles aren’t over. Homeless and separated from family, they must struggle to survive. This was an amazing story of strength in the face of adversity, and honor in spite of a world gone mad.

The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in SiberiaA fascinating memoir about the author’s five year banishment to Siberia. Esther and her family were Jews who lived in Vilna, Poland. At the outset of WWII, when Russia and Germany were still allied, Russian soldiers invaded her town, labeled her family as “capitalists” and shipped them off to be slave laborers in the gypsum mines of Siberia. Esther’s family faced slavery, starvation, frostbite, disease, persecution and the winters of Siberia with courage, resourcefulness and humor. Throughout five long years, their love for each other was the only thing that held them together.

One Fine Day On a slightly unrelated note, the jacket design for the first printing of The Endless Steppe was done by Nonny Hogrogian. She is the author and illustrator of the Caldecott Award winning book, One Fine Day. This retelling of an Armenian folktale is one of my favorite children’s books.

Behind the Secret WindowA memoir written by a Holocaust survivor. Nelly Toll and her mother survived the war by hiding in the bedroom of a Gentile family. They endured the hardships of the ghetto, betrayal by those close to them, and the loss of Nelly’s brother, father and most of her extended family.

Toll’s memoir is based on a diary that she kept while in hiding. While there are some periods about which she remembers little, her experiences are remarkably well documented. Her memoir is illustrated by watercolor pictures which she herself painted during the war as an escape from the terror she felt each day.

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