Why would anyone want to belong to a religion that was all about loss, grief and persecution? If I wanted misery, I could watch the evening news. Why couldn’t I be part of a religion that focused on peace instead? Or at the very least, why couldn’t Jewish holidays be like Easter and Christmas? Fluffy bunnies and Santa Claus, not death and persecution?
(from Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust)
Sixteen-year-old Lauren Yanofsky feels like she can’t get away from the Holocaust. Her family is Jewish, her father is a Holocaust historian, and family vacations tend to involve trips to Holocaust memorials or tours of concentration camps. When she finally understands how it has affected her family, Lauren decides she doesn’t want to read or talk about it anymore. More than that, she decides she no longer wants to be Jewish, as she thinks the religion focuses too much on death and persecution. Lauren wants to be a normal teenager and forge an identity that has nothing to do with being Jewish.
Lauren persuades her parents to let her attend public high school instead of the Hebrew school, but distancing herself from her religion doesn’t mean her life is suddenly care-free. It’s hard for her to understand why she and her best friend, Brooke, are growing apart, as Brooke spends less time playing basketball with Lauren and more time partying with the “Smoker” girls. Things start looking up for Lauren when the boy she likes seems to like her back, but she doesn’t know what to think when she catches him playing Nazi war games with his friends in the park. Just when she thinks she has removed all traces of the Holocaust from her life, it rushes back in and stares her straight in the face. Should she just chock it up to drunk boys doing stupid things, or is it more serious than that? Why is she the only one who thinks running around with paper Swastika armbands and water guns is wrong? Is it really possible for someone to turn their back on their heritage?
I admit that I was curious about this book as soon as I saw the title. Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust is certainly attention-grabbing, and I wanted to know how it’s possible for someone to hate the Holocaust. Leanne Lieberman raises some serious questions in this novel that are difficult or impossible to answer but provide much food for thought. Is there a difference between the Holocaust with a capital “H,” which references the killing of European Jews by the Nazis, and other forms of genocide, such as what happened to the Armenians, which has been referred to as a holocaust with a small “h?” How can we say “Never Again” when genocide continues to occur over and over again? Lieberman shows how the Holocaust remains relevant today and why it is important to remember such atrocities and honor the memories of the victims.
Lieberman uses the first-person narrative and plenty of humor to keep the novel from being too heavy. Despite the weight of the Holocaust on her shoulders, Lauren is a normal teenager; she spends much of her time thinking about the boy she likes, goes out with her friends, disobeys and challenges her parents, questions the meaning and importance of religion, and struggles to find herself amidst so much drama and change. Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust will easily appeal to young girls, but there is much in this book for adults to ponder as well. (Although the back of the book says the target audience is age 12+, parents should be aware that the teenage characters swear, make sexual comments, smoke, and drink. I’ll encourage The Girl to read this one at some point, maybe in a year or two.)
Disclosure: I received Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust from the Saima Agency and Orca Book Publishers for review.
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