American Shoes: A Refugee’s Story

Atria/Beyond Words. Feb. 2022. 352p. Tr $24. ISBN 9781582708522.
Gr 7 Up–In 1935, when Rosemarie was four years old, she and her parents went to Germany to visit family. After a year, the Lengsfelds attempted to board an ocean liner back to the United States. They were told Chancellor Adolf Hitler had closed the border, and Germans were not permitted to leave. Thus, Rosemarie and her parents were unluckily dwelling inside what would turn into World War II and the Nazi regime. Over a decade later, at 15 years old, a malnourished and traumatized Rosemarie, an American citizen, was able to return home via the SS Marine Flasher. Her parents and younger sister, Eleanor, were German citizens and were once again not allowed to board the ship. Separated from her family, Rosel, as she was nicknamed, set sail on the 10-day cross-Atlantic voyage, where readers learn of the horrors of Nazi Germany through her nightmares. In 2012, after a pilgrimage to his mother’s childhood home in Breslau, Rosemarie’s son Garrett sought out his mom’s story. At 85 years old, Rosemarie, quiet for decades, began to talk about the war. Those hundreds of hours of conversations, which at times included nightmare-inducing recollections, turned into this harrowing book. Garrett shares his mother’s story out of necessity and as a warning. His hopes that her “haunting testament” will be a “reminder of a global tragedy never to be forgotten, lest it be repeated” absolutely succeed. The book includes a trigger warning, sketches, an epilogue, postscript, acknowledgements from Rosemarie and Garrett, discussion questions, and a glossary of words, terms, and historical events.
VERDICT An unforgettable YA historical nonfiction book, written in an exquisite manner.

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