Tag Archives: diary

Clara’s War by Clara Kramer

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Clara’s War by Clara Kramer

Kramer, Clara. Clara’s War.

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When the SS invaded on July 5, 1941 the Jews in Zolkiew felt lucky they has some wealth, an oil press business, and could ransom a bit for their lives, but still sensed the days were numbered. Clara Schwarz and her immediate family, along with two other families, escaped the ghetto and lived in an underground bunker over the Beck family’s home, hiding from the SS for nearly two years. Ordered by her mother to keep a written record, her diary, detailing day to life of a Jewish family in Poland during WWII is now on display at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The book’s endpapers are decorated with an image of the blue penciled diary.

Clara’s story, as told to Stephen Gantz, is chronologically arranged, with each chapter prefaced by an excerpt from her diary, written between ages 15-17. The writing at the beginning of the story contains some nice turns of phrase (“his father … was on his heels, but only managed to catch his shadow” and “… I could make out the silhouettes of Zolkiew’s baroque church spires with their pregnant onion tops and golden domes…” ), but as the tale of love, loss and horror wears on, the writing becomes less distinguished. Many Yiddish words aren’t defined in context, the pacing is slow, and the introduction of the entire (large!) family at once over a few pages is a lot to keep track of; keeping characters straight is in part aided by a family tree. A map of the cramped living quarters is also included.

Certainly, the Holocaust was a terrible tragedy, and only by sharing these stories can we ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. Although the story is unique to the family, it’s not a unique concept for a book, and it pales in comparison to Anne Frank’s classic Diary of a Young Girl, and doesn’t compare in voice, language, or style. Purchase for larger collections.

Kim: Empty Inside: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager by Beatrice Sparks

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Kim: Empty Inside: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager by Beatrice Sparks

Sparks, Beatrice. Kim: Empty Inside: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager. Harper Teen, 2002. ISBN 978-0380814602 176 pp. $

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It’s amazing; the voice of the teen in this anonymous diary is the exact same immature and ignorant voice of the teen in Treacherous Love, the last book Sparks “edited!” Kim, a fan of excessive exclamation points, just wants to be thin and have a boyfriend. Throughout the journal, we learn of Kim’s college applications, crush on a boy who turns out to be gay, struggles with gymnastics, and move into her mother’s old sorority’s house in college (er, do you automatically get accepted if your alumni parents were members?). Kim deals with all of her problems by binge and purge cycles, or by fasting. She is astute enough to recognize that food makes her feel good when she is down, and that she is using food to celebrate or make herself feel better in certain situations. She also recognizes that as a competitive athlete she needs to eat healthy, but those phases only last a day or two at most. The mandatory hospitalization and ensuing therapy put Kim on the path to recovery when she realizes that all she really suffers from is low self-esteem.

In spite of the inauthentic voice and multitude of problems, Sparks manages to deliver some important information through the cheesy narrative. It is surprising that Sparks doesn’t mention the recent trend of websites promoting eating disorders. To give her credit, she never mentions a specific weight until the very end, when we learn that Kim only weighs 79 pounds and still perceives herself as fat. This makes the narrator a bit more acceptable as everygirl, and won’t make readers of a healthy size question their own weight. A list of warning signs and associations to contact for more information make this a bibliotherapy title.