When the papers say that people in London are behaving normally, they’re telling the truth. Everyone is pretending as hard as possible that nothing is happening … I don’t think Hitler will destroy London, because London, if its legs are blown away, is prepared to hobble on crutches.
In summer 1939, war was brewing. Eileen Alexander was a bright young graduate just leaving Cambridge and newly smitten with Gershon Ellenbogen, a fellow student who had inadvertently involved her in a car crash. Her first letter to him, written from hospital, sparked a correspondence that would last the length of the war and define the love of their lifetimes.
Love in the Blitz is a remarkable portrait of one woman’s coming-of-age. Her previously undiscovered letters are vivid, intimate, and crackling with intelligence. She is frank about sex and her ambitions, hilariously caustic about colleagues, rationing rules and life on the homefront, and painfully honest about loving a man away at war. The discovery of these magical letters must count as the greatest literary find of the 21st century.
I received a copy of this book from William Collins Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A chance discovery, these love letters give a young woman’s insights into wartime Britain. The book begins with a history of the letters and a history of the woman and the wartime period. There are many letters, only a few are featured. They are honest and reveal the young woman’s beliefs, feelings and motivations.
This educated and privileged perspective of wartime living is intrinsically valuable. The letters ramble in parts and are full of the writer’s idiosyncrasies. Rather like a good fictional character, these are flawed but more relatable because of this.
This is a book for those who like wartime history, love stories, personal observations and reflections.
This is the story of one remarkable young woman’s unimaginable journey through the rise of the Nazi regime, the Second World War, and the aftermath. Mania Lichtenstein’s dramatic story of survival is narrated by her granddaughter and her memories are interwoven with beautiful passages of poetry and personal reflection. Holocaust survivor Mania Lichtenstein used writing as a medium to deal with the traumatic effects of the war. Many Jews did not die in concentration camps, but were murdered in their lifelong communities, slaughtered by mass killing units, and then buried in pits. As a young girl, Mania witnessed the horrors while doing everything within her power to subsist. She lived in Włodzimierz, north of Lvov (Ukraine), was interned for three years in the labor camp nearby, managed to escape and hid in the forests until the end of the war.
Although she was the sole survivor of her family, Mania went on to rebuild a new life in the United States, with a new language and new customs, always carrying with her the losses of her family and her memories.
Seventy-five years after liberation, we are still witnessing acts of cruelty born out of hatred and discrimination. Living among the Dead reminds us of the beautiful communities that existed before WWII, the lives lost and those that lived on, and the importance to never forget these stories so that history does not repeat itself.
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher in return for an honest review.
This memoir is something everyone should read. It’s honest, sad and shocking. It gives a personal testament to the atrocities of The Holocaust during WW2. The contrast of ordinary family life and the genocide that ripped it apart is portrayed poignantly and effectively in this first-hand account.
The childhood and family memories are relatable, but what follows is unimaginable. The courage Mania Lichtenstein demonstrates as she survives, the horror that destroyed so many resonates and is a lesson to us all.
The importance of never standing by and letting something so terrible happen again is the message of this memoir. It makes its point eloquently but with transparent emotion.
Mania’s writing is poignant and shows the reader the life sentence of grief she carried with her, despite her remarkable survival and the life she achieved.
Praise for ‘Living With The Dead –
Adena Bernstein Astrowsky
Adena Bernstein Astrowsky describes an important and tragic chapter in world history in “Living among the Dead.” In sharing the story of her grandmother through WWII and the Holocaust, she reminds us that we must remember these experiences so that they are never allowed to happen again. – Harvey Mackay, author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
I was honored when asked to read and review Adena Astrowsky’s book, Living among the Dead. What stood out for me is how different this book is from many of the other Holocaust books. I was most impressed with two things: 1) the amount of important documentary information which is often not known or forgotten, and 2) the details about her grandmother’s life in labor camps. I feel it is a very important and well-written book that the world needs to read. As I told Adena, she did a “Mitzvah” (a good deed) for the world by documenting her grandmother’s story in such an excellent way. – Ben Lesser, Holocaust Survivor, Author, Speaker, and Founder of Zachor: Holocaust Remembrance Foundation
An inspiring story of values and tradition from generation to generation by a granddaughter who has dedicated her life’s work to being a prosecutor of victim-crimes. Narrative history of the Holocaust through discussions with her grandmother “Bubbie” who wrote poetry during the Holocaust as well as her thoughts through the years. “Bubbie’s” poems, such as The Nostalgic Past, could easily be adapted to middle and high school class lesson plans. – Jay Levinsohn, teacher
Even though it is incredibly difficult to read about the soulless cruelty inflicted upon Jews and other groups during World War II, it is imperative that we do so. The idea that the recurrence of the demonization of an entire race could ever happen again should seem not just implausible, but impossible. Tragically, however, we find ourselves in a world reeling from a resurgence of hate and violence. Against this backdrop, Adena Bernstein Astrowsky’s Living among the Dead can help serve as an important wakeup call. Kudos to Astrowsky, Mania Lichtenstein’s granddaughter, for preserving her grandmother’s wartime experiences. “I was in elementary school when I first learned that my grandmother was a Holocaust survivor,” says Astrowsky. That early exposure to stories of the unthinkable cruelty inflicted on her grandmother left an indelible mark. Through their eyes, Living among the Dead — a collection of Lichtenstein’s writings and her granddaughter’s observations — becomes a gift of immeasurable importance for us all. This book should be found in every library from middle school on up. Readers will come away feeling a range of emotions. Mine is of enormous sadness tempered with gratitude and the eternal hope that these lessons are not lost on this and future generations. – Linda F. Radke, President, Story Monsters LLC, formerly Five Star Publications, Inc.
Living among the Dead is Adena Bernstein Astrowsky’s loving and careful reflection of passages from her grandmother’s private journal that Mania Lichtenstein kept as a way of coping with the memories of what she’d survived in World War II. In addition to these notes written by Mania Lichtenstein, Astrowsky also spent years talking with her grandmother about her experiences, difficult as though many of these conversations were. So do we need another Holocaust book? The answer becomes obvious when one sees the rise of hate groups. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, and atheists— we are all brothers and sisters. But when hatred and discrimination, born almost entirely from ignorance and fear, enter the mainstream of our lives, we very much need this book. Living among the Dead is another valuable brick in the “never again” wall that demands constant attention and refortification. – Paul M. Howey, writer and editor
Wonderful book – a treasure of individual strength, family love, community solidarity and Jewish History. – Marcia Ruth, retired writer and editor
Using both her own words and her grandmother’s, Astrowksy weaves the story of survival against all odds during the Holocaust. Before I had even finished the book, I felt I knew “Bubby” and could hear her unwavering voice through her poetry and her amazing story of war and strife in Eastern Europe. – Kimberly Klett, Museum Teacher 2003-04, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Executive Deputy Director, Educators’ Institute for Human Rights
Living among the Dead is a riveting, heart-felt glimpse into one young girl’s path into and out of the Holocaust. A childhood once filled with joy and innocence was replaced with utter despair as she lost her entire family and had to learn to survive on her own. While her survival was nothing short of a miracle, the true significance of this story is the ultimate triumph of good over evil through a life well lived, and a legacy secured. Living among the Dead transforms the study of the Holocaust from a distant event to a personal journey. As a teacher, I believe reading this book will help my students develop a richer, more intimate understanding of this period in history, and better equip them to do the important work of sharing the lessons of the Holocaust with future generations. – Sarah Armistead, M.P.A., 8th Grade History Teacher
Adena Bernstein Astrowsky has dedicated her career to helping the most vulnerable of our society. She did this by prosecuting child sexual abuse cases and domestic violence cases within the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. She became the local expert concerning the prosecution of domestic violence related strangulation cases and taught extensively on that subject. Currently, she handles post-conviction cases on appeal and foreign extradition cases. Adena taught Sunday School at her temple for eight years, and in her last two years she co-taught “Character Development Through the Studies of the Holocaust.” Adena contributes articles to MASK (Mothers Awareness on School-age Kids) Magazine, often writing about children’s safety, drugs, law and order, etc. Once a month Adena volunteers at a local Scottsdale library with her therapy dog, Charlie, as part of the Tail Waggin’ Tales Program. Adena has also chaired events to raise money for the Emily Center of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Recently, Adena was recognized for her professional and philanthropic work with an Amazing Woman Award from the Phoenix Suns and National Bank of Arizona. Adena’s greatest role, however, is as the mother of three very active children. She, and her husband, Brad, are kept very busy with their respective dance, theater, music, and athletic activities.
The Princess of Felling was published in April 2019 by Northumbrian publisher Limelight Classics. The book describes my childhood and adolescence growing up on Tyneside in the 1970s and 1980s.
The book features a Foreword by TV, radio and book author Michael Chaplin, photographs of Felling taken in summer 2018 by Bulgarian photographer Rossena Petcova and unique maps inspired by my memories by poet and artist Steve Lancaster.
It also features appearances from David Almond, the Rev Richard Coles, Tracey Thorn, Sir Kingsley Amis, Bloodaxe Books, Nick Heyward and Gyles Brandreth.
The Princess of Felling resonates with readers of all ages in the North East and beyond.
As actor and Felling lass Jill Halfpenny says in the book, “Reading Elaine’s stories and poetry takes me back to my childhood in Felling and all of the smells, sounds and tastes of that time. Her words allow me to remember things that I didn’t know I’d forgotten.”
Buy your copy in person from selected outlets including Hexham’s Cogito Books, Felling Volunteer Library, Newcastle Central Library, Happy Planet Studio and Gallery in Whitley Bay.
The author says “The Felling I describe belongs to me” and that personal connection dominates the writing and makes it immersive. The introduction describes how The Princess of Felling got its name and the years of memories, scrapbook items, notes written from conversations with her family and old poems and writing that the author kept for several years before this book’s creation.
The writing uses the dialect and words used by those who lived in The Felling, for those who are unfamiliar with it, there is a helpful glossary at the back of commonly used colloquial words. How she learnt to say familiar words like street names is the subject of an early chapter, and it makes me think back to my childhood, and what it was like in the 1970s, when I was growing up.
The Princess of Felling is a beautifully produced bright and glossy book that contains engaging writing and lovely photographs.
The book has been promoted by differing events every month including a gig in a pie and mash shop in Tynemouth and a London book launch in a Bloomsbury pub.
The Princess has ruled my life since 2017 when my Mam died after living with dementia for almost four years. The 2,000 word essay I was working on morphed into a 22,000 word manuscript.
The Princess project includes a prequel, The Princess and the Goose plus a “mini musical” called The Princess and the Piano. I’ve written with musician Mike Waller. The vibe is Gilbert and Sullivan meets Rogers and Hammerstein. We’ve performed it about five times this year and at the weekend we recorded the songs. I will be releasing them on digital platforms and possibly as a limited edition CD in the spring.
“It’s perfect! I picture it like the Hundred Acre Wood…only in Felling. Just as magic, though.”
“Was so tempted to gobble this down in one sitting but forced myself to savour small delightful morsels. Just beautiful. And I’d forgotten all about skinshees!”
“In parts it’s educational, nostalgic, humorous, sometimes evoking sad memories for me and lovely memories too. The story telling is seamless and impressive; I summed it up as being a delight!”
“It isn’t long enough! You get to the end and you want more! I love that it’s full of nostalgia and gentle pathos, but shot through with such a delightful, whimsical humour. It’s made me do what I never imagined I’d do: roam around the streets of Felling on Google Earth, looking for the places where these magic events occurred.”
At a crossroads in her life, Roxana decides to take a ten-day safari trip to Africa. In Namibia, she meets a local guide who talks about “the courage to become who you are” and tells her that “the world belongs to those who dream”.
Her holiday over, Roxana still carries the spell of his words within her soul. Six months later she quits her job and searches for a way to fulfil an old dream: crossing Africa from north to south. Teaming up with Richard and Peter, two total strangers she meets over the Internet, Roxana starts a journey that will take her and her companions from Morocco to Namibia, crossing deserts and war-torn countries and surviving threats from corrupt officials and tensions within their own group.
Through Dust and Dreams is the story of their journey: a story of courage and friendship, of daring to ask questions and search for answers, and of self-discovery on a long, dusty road south.
“The world belongs to those who dreams.” he told me looking deep into my eyes.
I was a tourist on a ten day safari trip in Namibia. He was the tour guide. We were finishing our drinks late at night under the full moon. The rest of the tourists were already asleep but I didn’t want to go to sleep. It was my last night in Africa and I didn’t feel ready to go back and face my job, my life, my flat, and all the emptiness I left behind.
I thought it was only a big statement called in by too much alcohol. I pretended I didn’t hear it. But somewhere deep down, it touched me. What are my dreams? I asked myself. I didn’t know. I hadn’t asked myself the question.
I went back the next day and returned to a life that was a far cry from what I really wanted. Not that I actually knew what was it that I really wanted. But then, something magic happened. I started to dream again. New things came into my mind, at the beginning like a shy day dreaming thought that would quickly disappear. Slowly, these thoughts turned into constant companions. Thoughts like “I want to go back to Africa. I want to travel. I want to find a job that has meaning. I want to explore where I really want to live and what type of job I really want to do.” And then another though hit me with the power of a hammer: these were more than wishes.
These were my dreams.
And then, six month later, when I was offered a moment of choice, I took it. I chose to get up and go follow these dreams and turn them into reality. I left my job and went back to Africa.
Dreams are not wishes. They are not frustrations about things that should have happened in a certain way and didn’t. They are also not the product of imagination, some bubble that comes and stays with us for a while and then departs as unexpectedly and suddenly as it came. Dreams come from somewhere deep down, from the bottom of our soul. Dreams originate from the very fabric of who we really are and come to tell us a story about why we were born and what we are meant to do here, on earth. Dreams are the way your soul talks to us.
In the high Andes, the shamans, the medicine men and women of the descendants of the Incas, say that we dream the world into being. What they mean is that the reality that surrounds us – where we live, who we marry, what type of job we do – all this is a product of a dream that we have dreamed at some point. We might have done this unconsciously and didn’t fully understand what reality we had called into our life. But we may choose to do this consciously, select the dreams that we dream and then watch how this unfolds in reality.
Because, you see, in order to dream your world into being, it’s enough to hold your dreams in your consciousness. Be aware of them. Let them live in you. Let them inspire you.
So I kept these dreams alive and six months after my return from the ten day safari in Namibia, I found a once in a life time opportunity to cross Africa from North to South, in a Land Rover, in the company of two others.
And here’s the last catch. Things come to us because we dreamed them. But then we need to take the decision to follow them. The opportunity could have come and gone and I could have stayed in my meaningless job and carried on with my empty life in my small flat. But I decided differently.
And with this, a whole new world opened up. Because my African guide was right, the world does belong to those who dream.
If you want to know the whole story, read my travel memoir, “Through Dust and Dreams – The Story of an African Adventure”
Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.
As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–travelling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.
Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This honest and humorous memoir gives a unique insight into sheep farming in the Cotswolds.
When their friendship leads to love, Sue is happy to share Aubrey’s boyhood dream of farming sheep. Sue shares life experiences, people who influenced their lives and the characterful animals integral to their farming dream.
It’s an engaging and immersive read, sharing life’s ups and downs, of farming sheep. Their dedication and respect for the animals are evident, and the reader soon realises that farming is a way of life rather than a job. Humorous and poignant anecdotes, fill the pages of this memoir. There are lots of interesting facts about sheep farming.
An inspiring and motivational memoir that proves dreams can be chased and won.
How true are the family histories that tell us who we are and where we come from? Who knows how much all the beautiful liars have embargoed or embellished the truth?
During a long flight from Europe to Sydney to bury her mother, Australian ex-pat Katrina Klain reviews the fading narrative of her family and her long quest to understand her true origins. This has already taken her to Vienna, where she met her Uncle Harald who embezzled the Austrian government out of millions, as well as Carl Sokorny, the godson of one of Hitler’s most notorious generals, and then on to Geneva and Berlin. Not only were her family caught up with the Nazis, but they also turn out to have been involved with the Stasi in post-war East Germany.
It’s a lot to come to terms with, but there are more revelations in store. After the funeral, she finds letters that reveal a dramatic twist which means her own identity must take a radical shift. Will these discoveries enable her to complete the puzzle of her family’s past?
Inspired by her own life story, Sylvia Petter’s enthralling fictional memoir set between the new world and the old is a powerful tale about making peace with the past and finding closure for the future.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
An absorbing, addictive ancestry, which takes the reader across Europe, in troubled times, following Katrina’s quest to discover her roots. The writing style is engaging, as each player, in the life drama, tells their side of the story, the atmosphere, characters and events of the time come to life.
The historical detail is fascinating, the visual imagery compelling, and the characters are complex. The structure of the story maintains its momentum and the ending has some final twists.
Sylvia Petter was born in Vienna but grew up in Australia, which makes her Austr(al)ian.
She started writing fiction in 1993 and has published three story collections, The Past Present, Back Burning and Mercury Blobs. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of New South Wales.
After living for 25 years in Switzerland, where she was a founding member of the Geneva Writers’ Group, she now lives in Vienna once more.
Nick and Lesley Albert yearn to leave the noise, stress and pollution of modern Britain and move to the countryside, where the living is good, the air sweet, with space for their dogs to run free. Suddenly out of work and soon to be homeless, they set off in search of a new life in Ireland, a country they had never visited. As their adventure began to unfold, not everything went according to plan. If finding their dream house was difficult, buying it seemed almost impossible. How would they cope with banks that didn’t want customers, builders who didn’t need work, or the complex issue of where to buy some chickens?
I received a copy of this audiobook from the author in return for an honest review.
I don’t do many audiobook reviews, but they are great, for someone like me. I can work on something else, whilst I’m enjoying the story someone is reading to me, it’s like being a child again, lovely.
This escape to the country, or strictly speaking escape the UK, is an interesting memoir. Full of life events affecting Nick and his wife, as they decide to give up the rat race and move to rural Ireland. I expected lots of life experiences and mishaps as the couple lived the dream in a rural idyll. Eventually, this is what you get, but first, there are many chapters, on how the couple got to this point in their lives. There are comical, poignant and interesting moments, in these early chapters, but this section could be much shorter and still provide a snapshot of life before Ireland.
The couple’s first trip to Ireland and their house search, introduces many colourful characters, lots of humorous moments and interesting facts on Ireland, the housing market and economy in the early twenty-first century.
The difficulty of buying a house in Ireland is surprising These events are retold in an upbeat humorous way, but you can appreciate how stressful this was for the author.
The dogs and chickens have fabulous personalities, and you can see how much they are part of the family. There are also some poignantly sad animal moments, which all of us, who share their lives with animal friends will empathise.
Life in Ireland is never boring, I loved the chapter where Nick moves in, on his own. His experience with the oil fired boiler reminded me of my own experiences with the same sort of boiler. Country living is not for the faint-hearted.
The memoir is authentic and honest. This is a realistic view of escaping the rat race, the problems are numerous, but the will to make the change, is stronger, and ultimately they succeed. This first book, on living the dream in rural Ireland, is factual, humorous, motivational and poignant The narrator is engagingly good, and the memoir flows well.I enjoyed my day listening to this.
Nick Albert was born in England and raised in a Royal Air Force family. After leaving College he worked in retail management for several years before moving into financial services where he quickly progressed through the ranks to become a training consultant.
As a very passionate and reasonably talented sportsman, Nick had always wanted to use his training skills towards creating a parallel career, so in the mid-1980’s he qualified and began coaching sport professionally.
After a health scare in 2003 and in search of a simpler life, he and his wife Lesley, cashed in their investments, sold their home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland – a country they had never before even visited.
With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, they set about renovating their new home, where they now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly, but delightful dogs.
In 2017 Nick was signed to Ant Press to write a series of humorous memoirs about his life in rural Ireland. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019. Book four is due out in early 2020.
Nick is also the author of the twisty thriller, Wrecking Crew, the first in a series of books featuring reluctant hero Eric Stone.
Two vicars, their marriage in tatters with wounds reaching far back into the past, set out on a journey to find healing and restoration. Their route will take them from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, but will it help them find their way home? Along the 320-mile route across rural France, burdened by backpacks and blisters, Kim and Penelope stumble across fresh truths, some ordinary, others extraordinary. But will they be defeated by the road ahead or triumph over the pain of the past? Is there a chance they’ll find themselves in France and walk back to happiness? In this simple but enchanting book, part travelogue and part pilgrimage, Penelope invites you to walk with her and her husband on their epic journey as they encounter new faces and new experiences, and reconnect with each other and with God. Every step of the way, you’ll discover more about yourself and what’s really important to you.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
An interesting, motivational travelogue, full of honest reflection and astute observation.
Even if, you are not religious, there is something important to take away from this book. The author’s shared experiences show that marriage is a journey in itself. Like the walk they embark on, it is punctuated by happiness and sadness, hope and despair, and courage and fear.
The description of the walk, the people encountered and the places visited has intrinsic interest for those familiar with this region and those, like myself who are not. The statistics at the end of the story and the highlighted moments rounded off the book well.
Using an arduous physical walk, as a way of making sense of, and coming to terms with a couple’s emotional and spiritual journey works well. Both in a literary sense, and thankfully, in reality for Penelope and Kim.
Worth reading on many levels, whatever your marital status or religious belief.
Penelope is an avid walker and spends a lot of her time stomping in the hills and valleys near her home outside Bath. She is a chaplain at Bath Abbey and a spiritual therapist and counsellor for clergy (and some normal people too). Since becoming a vicar nearly 20 years ago, she has worked in churches in the UK and the USA, and has led pilgrimages in the UK and in Europe. She and her husband Kim have been married for more than 40 years and have three children and six grandchildren. Penelope rarely sits down, loathes gardening and relaxes by reading, going to the theatre or playing the piano. She is the author of two books, Women by Design and Walking Back to Happiness and is currently working on her third, due out in 2020: Scent of Water, a devotional for times of spiritual bewilderment and grief.
A compelling memoir of post-war Britain. Jackie Skingley grew up with limited career choices but joining the Women’s Royal Army Corps offered her a different life, living and working in a military world, against the backdrop of the Cold War. Packed full of stories reflecting the changing sexual attitudes prior to the arrival of the pill and the sexual revolution of the mid-60s, Skingley’s memoir denotes a shift in the political and social fabric of the era. Follow her relationships with the men in her life from finding her first true love, which through a cruel act of fate was denied her, to embarking on a path of recovery.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
I love reading memoirs, they inevitably contain so much drama and emotion and resonate because they are real-life not fiction. This memoir is a perfect example, detailing the life of a woman growing up in the post-war period in Britain, and finding a way of life that allowed her to experience a multitude of experiences, people and places.
Honest, interesting and original.There are many sad and shocking moments in this story, but also humour, happiness and romance. The writing style is easy to read, it’s like reading a novel. An absorbing and entertaining insight, into a remarkable women’s life.
For Jackie Skingley, adventure has been her quest since childhood. Life with the British army allowed Jackie to live all over the world and gain a huge appreciation for different cultures and customs. Since 1999, Jackie and her husband have lived in the Charente region of South West France where Reiki, jewellery making, painting and mosaics, as well as writing keep her fully occupied. Member of the Charente Creative Writing Group, mother and grandmother.
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Rex Ogle’s story of starting middle school on the free lunch programme is timely, heart-breaking and true.
Free Lunch is the story of Rex Ogle’s first term at High School. Rex and his baby brother often went hungry, wore second-hand clothes and were short of school supplies and Rex was on his school’s free lunch programme. Grounded in the immediacy of physical hunger and the humiliation of having to announce it every day in the school lunch line, Rex’s is a compelling story of a more profound hunger—that of a child for his parents’ love and care. Compulsively readable, beautifully crafted and authentically told with the voice and point of view of an eleven-year-old child, Free Lunch is a remarkable debut by a gifted storyteller.
In FREE LUNCH, debut author Rex Ogle vividly conveys the immediacy of physical hunger and the humiliation of revealing it every day in the school lunch line, along with a more profound hunger: that of a child for love and care from his parent. This story rings so true in its portrayal of poverty and the familial strains that can result from living in the economic margins because it is. This is Rex’s story.
But this is not Rex’s story alone; 43.1 million people are living in a
state of poverty, 14.5 million of them are under the age of 18. But when he was
embarking on his sixth-grade year in Texas, Rex had no idea that there were
also other children, let alone millions of others, in such need.
“The worst part of living like this is thinking as I did—that I was alone, that I was shameful, and that I had less worth because of the situation into which I was born,” explained Rex. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth. No child should feel alone. Or ashamed. Or worthless. They need to know that their circumstances are not their fault.”
This moving memoir covers Rex’s journey through his first semester
of middle-school as he navigates the inherent physical and emotional growth
pains that come with this phase of life, along with the societal pressures he
feels showing up at school in worn clothes that don’t fit properly and with the
occasional black eye he receives from speaking his mind at home —all in
addition to requesting free lunch. Rex is now an adult who traversed middle
school and found his way out of poverty, but the struggles of his youth have
shaped who is as a man today, and how he views the world around him.
“One day, when I was riding on the subway in New York City, I saw a little girl tug on her mom’s sleeve and heard her say, ‘I’m hungry.’ Her mom hugged her, but didn’t say anything,” explained Rex when asked why he decided to write Free Lunch. “I didn’t know their situation, but it struck me that my story needed to be shared. I wanted other kids to know that it’s okay to be hungry. That they are not alone. And there is hope.”
Free Lunch is unsparing and harshly realistic. It is also frequently funny and threaded with hope and moments of grace. Free Lunch is a welcome addition to the growing canon of youth memoirs, and Rex’s powerful, lyrical storytelling shines a light on those living in the shadows.
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher in return for an honest review.
I wanted to read and review this memoir because it highlights what life is like for many children in the world today. Told from the point of view of an eleven-year-old boy, it reads like poignant fiction, but it’s true.Although heartbreaking to read, it is also empowering, The boy faced abuse, hunger, ridicule and shame, but still retained his capacity to love, protected his younger sibling and ultimately his mother, and retained a sometimes misplaced optimism, that life would improve, if he just kept living it.
The book is easy to read and will interest, everyone from older children to adults. The chapters are headed, detailing a significant memory, and are mainly short. It is a book you can read a chapter of and return to later, but I couldn’t put it down. The honesty of the recollections, and the injustices they highlight resonate.
An immersive memoir that everyone should read. Disturbing, emotional, honest and memorable.
Rex is a former children’s book editor who now lives in Los Angeles with his partner. He enjoys hiking with friends and his dog, devouring books, and cooking.
“This is my middle school experience,” he says, “but I think it’s an important story to tell, with nearly one in five children in America living in poverty.”
FACTS ABOUT CHILDHOOD HUNGER:
12 million children in the United States live in food “insecure homes”
1 in 6 children in the United States lives with hunger
Children who come from food-insecure homes often experience learning disabilities and other cognitive impairments
Children who suffer from hunger often face emotional and social roadblocks