Kid Konnection: Between Shades of Gray
The Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in 1940 and Stalin’s troops created lists of people considered to be anti-Soviet – these were doctors, teachers, military, landowners, writers, librarians and so many more. These people were imprisoned, murdered or deported to Siberia. Fifteen year old Lina’s father worked at the university, so her family was targeted. Her father was sent to prison, while Lina, her mother and her younger brother Jonas were sent to Siberia. Lina was an artist and chronicled their journey with drawings.
Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys, tells the heartbreaking story of those deported to Siberia. It’s the story of people of different ages and different backgrounds having to learn to join together under harsh conditions in order to survive. While Lina is a fictional character, her story is based on the story of many other people, and many of the incidences in the book are based on true stories. I became very attached to Lina and some of the other characters in this book and sobbed more than once because many of them didn’t have happy endings.
I’m finding it very difficult to articulate how much this book means to me and I have tears in my eyes as I type this. My maternal grandparents immigrated from Lithuania early in the twentieth century, so they were in the United States before any of this happened. They left many family members behind, though, and I grew up hearing about a great uncle who was exiled to Siberia simply because he owned a small plot of land. He wasn’t a young man at the time, but he survived ten years in Siberia, only to come home to find the windows and doors of his home missing. He and his wife had to huddle in bed all winter, surviving on scraps of food brought to them by friends and neighbors. When spring came, they fixed up their house and bought a cow. That cow was so important to their survival that they brought it into their home when winter came again.
I’m so glad that Ruta Sepetys has chosen to tell this story. Her book is well written and marketed as a YA book, but it is one that should crossover into the adult market. The story is absorbing, even though it is gut wrenching and heartbreaking. This is an important book and one you shouldn’t miss – do yourself a favor and read it. This video is long, but well worth watching. I’ve watched it several times and have cried each time. You need to hear the survivor’s stories.
For more children’s books reviews, go to Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, leave a comment as well as a link on her site.