War, trauma and the search for identity in these compelling new books out this month…
Whether we are talking about World War ll, the American Civil War or the Vietnam War, experienced and inherited trauma have ongoing impact on human life and these are stories of children and parents who endured. Psychological scars are prevalent and all three authors, through their beautiful storytelling, exemplify the depth of human strength to overcome, and the power we have to choose how to live moving forward.
Once We Were Home by Jennifer Rosner is a tense and heartfelt story about Jewish children placed in the homes of strangers and Christian orphanages to blend in going undetected during World War ll. The children’s return to their families in the aftermath was not as cut and dry as you might expect and Jennifer Rosner dives in through the telling of her characters’ stories. It is an emotional topic that showcases the devastating results of war where often, even when everyone wants and deserves the best, nobody truly wins. Through trauma, loss and grief come opportunity for fresh starts. The children separated from their birth families during the war feel the effects throughout their lives while continually searching for a sense of identity and belonging. – Book Nation
“This forgotten history of displaced WWII children and the return to their roots [is] captivating, thought-provoking, enlightening, and bittersweet.” ―Alka Joshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Henna Artist
“Rosner is one of my favorite authors.” ―Lisa Scottoline, #1 bestselling author of Eternal
From Jennifer Rosner, National Jewish Book Award Finalist and author of The Yellow Bird Sings, comes a novel based on the true stories of children stolen in the wake of World War II.
When your past is stolen, where do you belong?
Ana will never forget her mother’s face when she and her baby brother, Oskar, were sent out of their Polish ghetto and into the arms of a Christian friend. For Oskar, though, their new family is the only one he remembers. When a woman from a Jewish reclamation organization seizes them, believing she has their best interest at heart, Ana sees an opportunity to reconnect with her roots, while Oskar sees only the loss of the home he loves.
Roger grows up in a monastery in France, inventing stories and trading riddles with his best friend in a life of quiet concealment. When a relative seeks to retrieve him, the Church steals him across the Pyrenees before relinquishing him to family in Jerusalem.
Renata, a post-graduate student in archaeology, has spent her life unearthing secrets from the past–except for her own. After her mother’s death, Renata’s grief is entwined with all the questions her mother left unanswered, including why they fled Germany so quickly when Renata was a little girl.
Two decades later, they are each building lives for themselves, trying to move on from the trauma and loss that haunts them. But as their stories converge in Israel, in unexpected ways, they must each ask where and to whom they truly belong.
Beautifully evocative and tender, filled with both luminosity and anguish, Once We Were Home reveals a little-known history. Based on the true stories of children stolen during wartime, this heart-wrenching novel raises questions of complicity and responsibility, belonging and identity, good intentions and unforeseen consequences, as it confronts what it really means to find home.
Meet Jennifer Rosner 3/30, 7pm ET (In Person – Westport, CT)
Wild Beautiful and Free by Sophfronia Scott takes place during the American Civil War and has been described as a retelling of Jane Eyre. Jeannette, the mixed race daughter of a plantation owner and an enslaved woman becomes an orphan, is sold into slavery and yet faces her life with positivity. We follow her on a journey that explores family, perseverance and risk, going from tragedy to triumph. I am thrilled to be welcoming Sophfronia Scott to Book Nation Book Club to discuss her book, writing and her inspiration. – Book Nation
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Born the daughter of an enslaved woman and a Louisiana plantation owner, Jeannette Bébinn is raised alongside her white half sister—until her father suddenly dies. His vindictive wife refuses twelve-year-old Jeannette her inheritance and sells her into slavery. Now on her own, Jeannette must fight the injustices she faces because of her mixed race. She escapes enslavement and travels from Mississippi to Philadelphia to New York to Ohio, all while searching for purpose, love, and her place in a country torn asunder by the burgeoning Civil War. Everything seems to fall into place when she meets Christian Robichaud Colchester, the white proprietor of Fortitude Mansion, a safe haven for escaped slaves where Jeannette teaches. But despite their instant connection, Jeannette isn’t convinced she belongs in his circle. In a world that tells her she doesn’t fit anywhere, Jeannette must decide what’s more important: bending to the expectations of others or embracing her true self.
Book Nation Book Club with Sophfronia Scott 4/18, 7pm ET (Zoom)
Dust Child by Nguyen Phan Que Mai is an engrossing story of Amerasians born to the Vietnamese women and American GIs during the time of the Vietnam War. Told from three points of view with emotion and skill, these intersecting stories will stay with you. –Book Nation
From the internationally bestselling author of The Mountains Sing, a suspenseful and moving saga about family secrets, hidden trauma, and the overriding power of forgiveness, set during the war and in present-day Việt Nam.
In 1969, sisters Trang and Quỳnh, desperate to help their parents pay off debts, leave their rural village and become “bar girls” in Sài Gòn, drinking, flirting (and more) with American GIs in return for money. As the war moves closer to the city, the once-innocent Trang gets swept up in an irresistible romance with a young and charming American helicopter pilot, Dan. Decades later, Dan returns to Việt Nam with his wife, Linda, hoping to find a way to heal from his PTSD and, unbeknownst to her, reckon with secrets from his past.
At the same time, Phong—the son of a Black American soldier and a Vietnamese woman—embarks on a search to find both his parents and a way out of Việt Nam. Abandoned in front of an orphanage, Phong grew up being called “the dust of life,” “Black American imperialist,” and “child of the enemy,” and he dreams of a better life for himself and his family in the U.S.
Past and present converge as these characters come together to confront decisions made during a time of war—decisions that force them to look deep within and find common ground across race, generation, culture, and language. Suspenseful, poetic, and perfect for readers of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, Dust Child tells an unforgettable and immersive story of how those who inherited tragedy can redefine their destinies through love, hard-earned wisdom, compassion, courage, and joy.
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