A remarkable and thought-provoking memoir.

AMERICAN SHOES

A REFUGEE'S STORY

Rosemarie “Rosel” Lengsfeld was an American girl trapped in Nazi Germany during World War II.

In 1934, Rosel and her immigrant parents left New York City to visit German relatives. However, when it was finally time to leave, her family—now including her new baby sister—learned that Hitler had closed the borders to German citizens, forcing them to remain in Breslau. As Lutherans, they were lucky enough not to be fully aware of the atrocities occurring in German-occupied territories. Her parents, however, emphasized that she should not believe antisemitic propaganda. When the war ended, 15-year-old Rosel was able to secure passage back to the States due to her American citizenship, painfully leaving her parents and sister behind. As the horrific truth about Hitler’s Final Solution came to light, Rosel had to deal with anti-German sentiment, grappling with her perception of the Nazis as the enemy and her awareness that her accent would make Americans believe she was one of them. Her situation presents readers with difficult questions about collective responsibility and good versus evil, and they are given the space to come to their own conclusions. Co-authored by Rosemarie and her son, this is a haunting, harrowing memoir. Rosemarie’s time in Nazi Germany is recounted through recurring nightmares during her 10-day shipboard voyage; while this structure feels a bit forced at times, it is a useful tool for conveying her story.

A remarkable and thought-provoking memoir. (postscript, discussion questions, glossary, historical notes, author’s note, maps) (Memoir. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-58270-852-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Beyond Words Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author.

CONTINUUM

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Deaf, trans artist Man meditates on his journey and identity in this brief memoir.

Growing up in conservative central Pennsylvania was tough for the 21-year-old Deaf, genderqueer, pansexual, and biracial (Chinese/White Jewish) author. He describes his gender and sexual identity, his experiences of racism and ableism, and his desire to use his visibility as a YouTube personality, model, and actor to help other young people like him. He is open and vulnerable throughout, even choosing to reveal his birth name. Man shares his experiences of becoming deaf as a small child and at times feeling ostracized from the Deaf community but not how he arrived at his current Deaf identity. His description of his gender-identity development occasionally slips into a well-worn pink-and-blue binary. The text is accompanied and transcended by the author’s own intriguing, expressionistic line drawings. However, Man ultimately falls short of truly insightful reflection or analysis, offering a mostly surface-level account of his life that will likely not be compelling to readers who are not already fans. While his visibility and success as someone whose life represents multiple marginalized identities are valuable in themselves, this heartfelt personal chronicle would have benefited from deeper introspection.

Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author. (Memoir. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-22348-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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