In my YA fiction If Only… Lisa, the protagonist struggles with learning disabilities. This struggle triggers low self-esteem which triggers frustration, and then triggers bad choices which spiral out of control. Lisa’s problems are serious but it doesn’t mean her best friend G is struggle free.
G’s struggle is of a different kind but definitely serious as well. She is constantly dealing with her own nightmares, centered on her grandparents’ trauma suffered in a concentration camp. G gives the reader a taste of her grandparents’ suffering and its effect on her, their only granddaughter.
I am a child of Holocaust survivors and the Holocaust survivors’ community. Growing up 2nd generation, I heard painstaking stories first hand from an uncle, an aunt, family friends, all describing the magnitude of suffering Holocaust survivors experienced during World War II. I in turn shared the evils of that horrible period between 1939-1945 with the 3rd generation, my own children. And yes, I described all the bitter details of how their grandparents lost their families to a cruel senseless death, how they lost their homes, how you had to be lucky to survive the concentration (death) camps, and much more.
As is so often said, “Writers write what they know.” They also write what they feel and understandably so I could not ignore my feelings as 2nd generation to holocaust survivors. I felt impelled to weave this subject into my YA realistic fiction If Only… in order to give teens a glimpse into another kind of struggle, a struggle different from drugs, friendships, school or any of the teen issues that might come up during adolescence.
Like G, I had and still have nightmares about the Holocaust. I also felt compelled as a teen to read every book and see every film that came out on the subject. G, an important teen character in If Only… appears to lead a charmed life, but there is the family history of the Holocaust that always hovers.