Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tear Down This Wall: Books behind the Iron Curtain

On this day in 1987, Ronald Reagen stood before the Berlin Wall and said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." In order to mark the occasion, we're looking at books behind the Iron Curtain.


The Sound of Munich by Suzanne Nelson. Before he died, Sienna's father completed most of his bucket list. The only thing left is to find the man who smuggled him and his parents out of East Germany. Sienna's studying abroad in Munich and is determined to find him, even though her German isn't great and he has a really common name.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. When Russia invades Lithuania in 1939, they relocated large portions of the population. Lina's father has already been taken, then she, her mother, and brother are put on a train and taken to a Siberian labor camp.

Eva Underground by Dandi Daley Mackall. Eva's father is an organizer so they move to Poland in the 1970s to help organize the communism resistance. Eva knows about life in behind the Iron Curtain, but there's a huge difference in knowing abut it and living in it.


Second Fiddle by Roseanne Perry. Jody, Giselle, and Vivian are American kids living in Berlin right after the fall of the Wall. When an Estonian soldier in the Soviet army is beaten almost to death by his superior officers, they decide the rescue him. Having him pretend to be their music teacher seems like the perfect plan to smuggle him out of Berlin and for them to get to Paris for a music competition.

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin. Sasha is going to be inducted into the Young Pioneers tomorrow, and his hero, his father, who works for State Security will be there performing the ceremony. But in the middle of the night, his father is arrested and the neighbors claim their room. At school the next day, starting with a snowball fight gone wrong, everything unravels and Sasha starts to see the truth about Stalin, the system, and the country he loves so much.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis. This deceptively simple biography gives an excellent look at Sis's youth in Czechoslovakia.


My Own Revolution by Carolyn Marsden. In the 1960s, Patrik's family is already thinking about trying to escape Czechoslovakia. Patrik is scared and angry when so many of his friends and neighbors start disappearing for slights against the Party. When Patrik pulls a prank and gets caught and is order to relocate, the family's decision is made for them.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Like the title suggests, this book chronicles one day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, a prisoner in a Stalinst labor camp. Solzhenitsyn spent nearly a decade in the gulags and knows what he writes about. Those wanting to know more should also pick up his The Gulag Archipelago.

The Road of Bones by Anne Fine. In this novel that takes place in a thinly veiled Soviet Union, Yuri's smart tongue lands him in a northern labor camp, far from those he knows.

What are your must-reads about life behind the Iron Curtain?

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1 comment:

  1. I have two to add to the list. Although, they are both adult titles, I think they are accessible to the older teen reader.

    "Heidegger's Glasses" by Thaisa Frank
    This title touches on the Third Reich's obsession with the occult and unknown world of underground scribes. It combines love, deception and fear.

    "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon
    Only part of the story takes place behind the Iron Curtain. Joe Kavalier smuggles himself out of Prague and ends up in New York. His skills as a magician and his partnership with his American cousin leads him into the world of comic books and heroes. He is a success but he is always looking for a way to rescue his parents and his brother. Can Joe reconcile his new life with his old life?


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