Archive for February, 2011

Sarah’s Key

 sarahs key4 Sarahs Key

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups, in which the French police arrested thousands of Jews and held them under inhuman conditions at the Vélodrome d’Hiver outside the city, before transporting them to Auschwitz. The story is told from the viewpoints of two people in different time periods: a ten-year-old Jewish girl who is part of the roundup, and an American-born French journalist, Julia Jarmond, who researches the story in 2003.

Sarah’s Key draws readers in effortlessly with its dramatic opening – the police drag the little girl and her mother out of their apartment while neighbors watch silently. Meanwhile the girl has locked her four-year-old brother in a secret cupboard to save him, assuring him she will soon return. Juxtaposed with the girl’s story is Julia Jarmond’s narrative. As Julia learns more about what happened to the child, troubling secrets about her own French husband and his family come to light.

The first half of Sarah’s Key is absolutely riveting. The plot is suspenseful, moving and tight, the pacing perfect. A Jewish child’s  innocence being gradually eroded, from her time at Vélodrome d’Hiver to her return to her brother, is beautifully portrayed, as is Julia’s emotional and cultural conflict as she learns more about the Paris roundup and her own family.  

However,  the major climax takes place midway through the book. The narrative loses steam after that; events appear somewhat forced and rambling.  It isn’t clear why Julia is so traumatized by the idea of her husband’s family living in the apartment where the Jewish girl once lived, or why she desperately tries to find the now-grown girl and her acquired family. There is a second revelation of sorts towards the end, but the construction seems amateurish compared to the first. Several one-dimensional characters who serve no clear purpose are also scattered through the book.

Perhaps my expectations are too high from having read Holocaust books like “Sophie’s Choice” and “The Boy in Striped Pajamas, but I’d rate Sarah’s Key a “Must Read But Borrow”.

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Stop The Bullying!

 Article first published as Stop the Bullying! on Technorati.

bullying3 Stop The Bullying!

The latest bullying episode – 13-year-old Nadin Khoury from Pennsylvania was kicked, punched and hung from a tree by his jacket by four older students. He was lucky. A Good Samaritan rescued him before things got worse.

Not everyone is that fortunate. We all know of the tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince in January 2010 after she was repeatedly bullied. In another case, 14-year-old Brandon Bitner stepped in front of a tractor-trailer to escape the relentless torment.

According to statistics, 77% of students are bullied in some form. Schools have a charter agreement between the trustees and the Minister of Education that directs the school to “provide a safe physical and emotional environment”. Yet these tragedies continue.

So what can we do?
Quite a lot. Provided schools, parents and kids work together.

What Schools Can Do:
Schools have to enforce a zero-tolerance policy with regard to bullying. Complaints must be thoroughly investigated and stern punitive action taken when required. Bullying is often not reported, so a watchdog committee of some sort would make a big difference. Schools also need to foster an environment where the victim feels safe enough to complain.

What Parents Can Do:
Parents should watch for signs that their kids are being bullied (school phobia, lack of confidence, damaged clothes and property) and provide support. Sometimes talking to the bully’s parents helps. In other cases, discussion with school authorities can make a difference. Legal recourse is also possible.

What Kids Can Do:
Kids can avoid bullying by taking a few simple steps. They can walk away from the bully, use the buddy system and control their own anger. They can confide in an adult. A self-defense class is always a good idea, as is participating in activities and clubs that build confidence.

If everyone did their part, bullying in schools would dramatically decrease. And young lives could be saved.

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