Thursday, March 28, 2019

"The Last Year of the War"

Susan Meissner is a former managing editor of a weekly newspaper and an award-winning columnist. She is the award-winning author of A Bridge Across the Ocean, Secrets of a Charmed Life, A Fall of Marigolds, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, and As Bright as Heaven, among other novels.

Meissner applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Last Year of the War, and reported the following:
The Last Year of the War is a work of historical fiction narrated by the main character, Elise Sontag. She is the American-born daughter of German immigrant parents interned during World War II and then repatriated in January 1945 to Germany in a prisoner exchange. But it is more than just Elise’s fictional story; it is representative of hundreds upon hundreds of real German immigrant parents and their American-born children who were incarcerated in the US during the war based on little more than fear and suspicion. They were never convicted of a war crime nor had they ever declared themselves loyal to the Nazi regime, but they were nonetheless looked upon as the enemy and then treated as such.

This book allows us, as it allowed me when I was writing it, to consider how we look at people who are ethnically not just like us. Do we look at them as mere slices of geography or as humans first before anything else? Page 69 of The Last Year of the War, aptly underscores what it feels like to be told “This is who you are to me no matter who you really are.” Elise, who was born in Davenport, Iowa, and never lived anywhere else, is with her family and other German Americans and Japanese Americans is at a train station. They are all headed to Crystal City Family Internment Camp in a remote corner of southwest Texas. She is fourteen on this summer day in 1943. Elise is American through and through, except for her parentage, and doesn’t even speak German, but ever since her father was arrested six months earlier, she feels less and less sure she knows who she is. Here’s a quote from page 69 from her viewpoint:
We must have made quite a visual tableau, a dozen happy families speaking different languages crying tears of relief into each other’s necks and being led by local police and armed INS agents from one platform to a second one. Other travelers gape at us. Some clearly understood who we were and rewarded us with cold stares; others appeared unsure and therefore were warily curious. The window shades had been lowered on this other train to keep out the scorching sun, but also to remind all of us in our car – it was full of other families bound for the internment camp – that we were not vacationers on a pleasure trip. We were detainees who could not be trusted to see where we were headed or to be seen.
Visit Susan Meissner's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Susan Meissner & Bella.

--Marshal Zeringue