Word­wings (Essen­tial Prose)

  • Review
By – January 31, 2018

Twelve-year-old Rivke Rosen­feld fills the War­saw Ghet­to with her sto­ries in 1941. Orphaned, she lives with her grand­fa­ther and two sis­ters, try­ing to eke out a liv­ing with­in the brick-and-barbed-wire con­fines of the ghet­to. She writes her diary between the lines and in the mar­gins of a book of Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen fairy tales. Dr. Emanuel Ringel­blum asks her to con­tribute her diary to his Under­ground Archive, a col­lec­tion of doc­u­ments he is assem­bling so the world will one day know the every­day lives of those with­in the ghet­to. As a sto­ry­teller, Rivke meets oth­er well-known per­son­al­i­ties of the ghet­to, includ­ing Dr. Janusz Korszak, an edu­ca­tor and children’s author.

Author Sydelle Pearl was inspired to write this nov­el when she saw part of Dr. Ringelblum’s secret stash and imag­ined how a young girl’s diary could make its way there. Although the she may overuse the metaphor of words as wings, the book show­cas­es Pearl’s high­ly-honed sto­ry­telling skills; she cus­tomizes tales to give hope to those in the ghet­to. The nar­ra­tive suf­fers from a con­trived plot, though, and when Rivke writes her diary with­in the Ander­sen book, Pearl mean­ders from one folk­tale to another. 

Bar­bara Kras­ner is an award-win­ning poet and his­to­ri­an who focus­es her writ­ing on the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence in Amer­i­ca and dur­ing the Holo­caust. She teach­es in the his­to­ry depart­ment of The Col­lege of New Jer­sey and serves as Direc­tor, Mer­cer Holo­caust, Geno­cide & Human Rights Edu­ca­tion Center.

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