so much Holocaust

by marjorieingall on February 15, 2020

At Tablet, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I wrote about the best Holocaust books of 2019. This year, I kept all Holocaust books off my annual list of the year’s best Jewish children’s books; I promised to talk about the best Holocaust books when the day of remembrance came around. The reason: As I’ve written many times, I feel there are too damn many children’s books about the Holocaust, and for the end-of-year gifting season, I really wanted to celebrate books that were NOT about genocide.

That said: If I were allowing myself to add ONE MORE book to the Best Holocaust Books column, it would be A Boy Is Not A Bird, about an 11-year-old boy in Romania in 1941. The only reason I cut it was that it’s sorta more Holocaust-adjacent than Holocaust? No Nazis, no concentration camps. (Honestly, consider that a point in its favor: Lesser-known setting.) A Boy is Not a Bird is both accomplished and odd, with an unreliable narrator — I love an unreliable narrator.

The protagonist, Natt, is initially excited about the arrival of Soviet soldiers to his small Romanian town. He likes learning new songs about how awesome Papa Stalin is, and he’s thrilled to earn a cool red Pioneer kerchief for his loyalty to Communism. But life gets harder and harder; his dad is deported; food becomes scarcer; and Natt’s savvy, cynical best friend is desperately worried. This book is a good choice for family reading (to discuss: what’s really happening, and what does Natt think is happening?). It’s exciting and distressing; it’s funny and foreboding in equal measure. It feels age-appropriate for kids 9 to 12 and their families.

Moving on: In a separate Tablet column, I recommended a great and unusual Holocaust documentary. (The fact that it’s great is evidenced by the fact that, as mentioned, I ALWAYS WANT TO NOT-WRITE ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST. If something makes it through my Holocaust filter, it has to be really spectacular…and this film is. Go donate so it gets a theatrical showing, if you are so inclined.)  

In non-Tablet news, I did a piece for Barnard Magazine (yay, discussing the costuming of Mrs. Maisel, which is the best thing about Mrs. Maisel in its third season) and a piece for Fordham Magazine (I absolutely love this publication’s design and photography — that picture of Veronica Dunlap mid-leap!). Now that women’s magazines are disappearing left and right, several of my wonderful editors are now at alumni mags, so I get to write for them there. I enjoy doing this a lot — it’s fun to profile quirky and talented alums, even of schools I did not attend. 

Over at SorryWatch, we have a crappy apology from Australia’s Prime Minister for skipping out on those pesky wildfires, but a lovely historical apology from Australian Parliament for its treatment of Olympic athlete Peter Norman. Norman was the third guy on the podium with the two African-American athletes who raised their fists in the Black Power salute in 1968, to protest against racism in sport and life. I wanted to write about Peter Norman as a reaction to my disgust at the Houston Astros’ lousy apology for cheating…about which we were quoted in the Houston Chronicle. 

In completely frivolous news, I treated myself to two new nail polish colors from Zoya, my favorite non-toxic purveyor of polish. Aire and Danica. Tiny luxuries are needed right now, no? 

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