Wednesday, November 07, 2012
I was at a fascinating exhibit called WWII & NYC at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, one of my favorite museums in the city. The exhibit was about the impact of the war on the city and on people who lived there. By “impact” the curator meant the presence of troops being trained there, the refugees, the wartime industries and mobilization of workers, families waiting for the safe return of their sons and fathers, etc. Many who lived there through the wartime were interviewed about their own experiences and how the war affected the rest of their lives.
This exhibit started me thinking about what we have in our library system on ordinary people’s experiences during the war. MCPL has many books on WWII. Most of the nonfiction titles are being shelved at Dewey Classification number 940.54.
Tom Brokaw published The Greatest Generation in 1998. The book was based on his interviews with some famous people who lived through the war, as well as many ordinary citizens, including the members of the Romeo Club (Retired Old Men Eating Out) who meet regularly in diners in Boston. Brokaw published a follow-up in 1999, titled The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections. I liked the latter which has more verbatim quotes and less interpretation by the author.
Stella Suberman's When It Was Our War: a Soldier's Wife on the Home Front is a sequel to her previous title, A Jew Store: a Family Memoir. She decided to write the second book after 9/11, another life-changing experience. The second book starts with a now 16-year-old author living in Florida in1938 watching an odd ship harbored in the bay. She later learns that the ship was the S.S. St. Louis which carried a boat-full of European Jews waiting for President Roosevelt's permission to land. He denied permission and the boat and its passengers were sent back to Europe. The book ends as the war winds down. Her writing style is casual as if you were sitting across the table listening to your favorite aunt sharing her life's story. Emily Yellin's Our Mothers' War provides accounts of women on the homefront and how their experiences changed their lives in many ways.
These storytellers are the parents of Baby Boomers. I feel an urgency to read and listen to their stories before it is too late.