My seventh-grade daughter, Catherine, and I read this collection of war diaries from World War I to Iraq for our book club. We read it aloud together, and I’m glad we did. It gave us a chance to talk about the historical times each of the wars was set in and discuss the difficulties each of the diarists experienced. Particularly interesting were the views expressed by young people writing in Israel, Palestine and Iraq, since those conflicts are current events.
During our group discussion we sat in a circle and each of the girls and moms talked about the diary that lingered in their minds the most. Not surprisingly many of us chose Inge, a Jewish girl sent from Austria with her sister to stay with an English family during World War II. Since the girls are the same age Inge was when she was writing, the anguish she experienced at leaving her parents and her home resonated particularly with us.
I worried that the subject matter would be too intense for middle school girls, because some of the descriptions are particularly strong. And not all the diarists survive. But during our discussion it was quite clear that the girls had learned a lot from reading the book, and they highly recommended it for other girls their age. In fact, one of our members had not read Stolen Voices before our meeting, but said she couldn’t wait to start after hearing the rest of us talk about it.
I think Stolen Voices is an important book for people of all ages, but it’s especially important for the young. And I think it’s a great book to read with a group.
The diary of Zlata Filipovic, one of the editors, is also included in the collection. A line from one of her entries sums up the sentiment that was a common thread among many of the diarists, “I simply don’t understand it. Of course, I’m ‘young’ and politics are conducted by ‘grown-ups.’ But I think we ‘young’ would do it better. We certainly wouldn’t have chosen war….”
Click here to read an interview with Filipovic.