Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (2011)

Ruta Sepetys is a Lithuanian-American who is writing novels about our Baltic history. This is very like our own Ruta U.'s Dear God, I Wanted to Live. The story is very similar, how a family that has committed no crimes is dragged out of their house in the middle of the night - men separated out and sent to prison camps, women and children put into cattle cars and then sent off to Siberia. The Latvian version by Ruta U. is actually written by someone who experienced it herself, being deported at age 14. In this story the girl Lina is 15 and written by someone who has researched these deportations. Lina travels with her mother and younger brother. They spend a month and a half in the cattle car getting to their first labor camp, where they live in a hut with a Russian woman while they work, but then they are taken to another place north of the Arctic Circle, where they are expected to build their own shelter - a yurt, and of course many do not survive the winter. Stalin is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 20 million people. This is less known than Hitler's atrocities, so these kinds of books are important. It looks like this has been made into a film, but I can't find any references to it being out yet. I believe it is called Ashes in the Snow. With all the other shades of gray books and movies out there, the original title might not work. 

A minor detail is the maps in front of the book. I always like books with maps that show me where the action is taking place. This map is very familiar to me, as have taught excerpts from Dear God, I Wanted to Live at the Latvian school for years, and one of our activities is to follow their trip on a map of the Soviet Union, so the path of these deportees was very similar. I find it interesting, that at the end of Between Shades of Gray, when Lina has spent two of her twelve years of imprisonment, her thoughts are focused on survival, on wanting to live, as in the title of our Latvian book.

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