We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter
Published (2017) by Penguin Books.
This novel is based on the lives of the author’s grandfather and his siblings who survived the Holocaust in unimaginable ways. Georgia did not find out her grandfather was Jewish until he died when she was 15. It took ten years for her to tell the story of his family. Painstaking research and visits to Brazil, Italy and Poland uncovered how the family was forced to go into hiding, escape over the Alps to Italy, survive the hell of the ghettos in Poland, fight in the Polish army against the Nazis, take cattle cars to Siberia, and by the luck of the draw, survive imprisonment and torture. During the six years of their separation of Sol, Nechuma and their children, Halina, Addy, Mila, Genek, and Jakob and their spouses, two babies were born in horrible conditions and a toddler was hidden among nuns. Hunter has a way of bringing these real-life characters into our hearts. This is the best book I’ve read in recent memory.
City on Strike by Harriet Zaidman
Published (2019) by Red Deer Press.
This novel has the look of a book for youth 10+ but the “plus” definitely includes all of us who yearn to know more of our Canadian history. Although I was born in Winnipeg and my four grandparents lived in the north end, no one ever mentioned the Winnipeg General Strike and its significance for Winnipeg, Canada and the world. It was the only strike of its kind in Canada and this thoroughly researched and intimate account of a life-changing event tells the story of one family’s attempts to live on the meagre wages paid by the wealthy owners and condoned by Winnipeg politicians. There’s just something about Winnipeg that made this the site of a worker’s rebellion and if you’re from there, you’ll know what I mean. Written from the point of view of children and interlaced with Yiddish expressions, this re-creation of a life-changing period in our history is told in the clear and hopeful voice of Jack and Nellie and their older sister Fanny. A must-read for ages 10 – 110.
Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
Translated into English by Rhonda Mullins
Published (2017) by Coach House Books
A 2019 Canada Reads selection is written in the sometimes awkward but poignant second person, a granddaughter speaking to her grandmother whom she never knew. With its short, sometimes paragraph long mini-chapters, the book details the life of Suzanne Meloche, the author’s maternal grandmother, who was a member of Les Automatistes, a movement of dissident artists. This is a fictionalized biography of a woman who couldn’t fit into the mould created for her, who lived through the Depression, Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement and the dawn of Feminism and chose to abandon her children for a more productive and artistic lifestyle.