The Extra

Kathryn Lasky

  • From the Publisher
December 16, 2013

Fif­teen-year-old Lilo is a Gyp­sy girl liv­ing in World War II Vien­na, with a tal­ent­ed watch­mak­er and musi­cian father and a sought- after lace­mak­er moth­er liv­ing a hap­py life. But every­thing changes when the fam­i­ly is picked up by Hitler’s police as part of a pol­i­cy to clean up the Gyp­sy plague.” The fam­i­ly is shipped to a camp, and things look very grim. Then Hitler’s favorite (and very real) film­mak­er Leni Riefen­stahl picks Lilo and her moth­er to be extras on the new movie she’s mak­ing. The movie takes place in Spain, so Riefen­stahl needs the dark­er com­plex­ioned Gyp­sies. This is a Holo­caust nar­ra­tive that is rarely told and Lasky deliv­ers with a deft hand, pow­er­ful­ly and poignant­ly. The mix of actu­al his­to­ry and fic­tion­al pro­tag­o­nist works seam­less­ly. Giv­en the sub­ject mat­ter, the geno­cide of the Sin­ta and Roma peo­ple, it’s obvi­ous­ly a har­row- ing read. But the nar­ra­tor also makes room for hope and pays homage to the human­i­ty always dis­played by at least some indi­vid­u­als. The hor­rif­ic por­trait of Riefen­stahl is espe­cial­ly chill­ing, giv­en that she lived a long life, dying only recent­ly in 2003. This is absolute­ly a book worth read­ing and discussing.

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