Photograph of the Hall of Names memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel.
Photograph of the Hall of Names memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel.
The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem. (Public Domain)

Every writer has the responsibility of understanding what it is they are writing about. Biographers and memoirists are tasked with corroborating the personal narrative of their subjects with verified facts, documentation, and external perspectives. An author of historical must have a good sense of the time period their book inhabits: everything from global phenomena to the details of daily life has some bearing on who the novel’s characters are, how they behave (and why), what the world around them looks like. …


Ansel Adams photograph of the mess hall lunch line at the Manzanar Relocation Center, California.
Ansel Adams photograph of the mess hall lunch line at the Manzanar Relocation Center, California.
Ansel Adams, “Mess Line, Noon, Manzanar Relocation Center, California.”
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I had a different post planned for last week, but in light of the last fortnight in America — and the rise in anti-Asian violence over the last year — I think it’s important that we acknowledge the ways in which literary and educational pedagogies of exceptionalism hinder social change relating to tolerance and human rights.

One of the reasons that the Holocaust has risen to such prominence in American popular culture is that, for all its horrors, the historical narrative is a relatively easy one for American audiences to swallow. The United States is the hero of that narrative…


Book cover illustration of the Owl Mountains from the Scribe Books edition of Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure by Menachem Kaiser
Book cover illustration of the Owl Mountains from the Scribe Books edition of Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure by Menachem Kaiser

Debut author Menachem Kaiser’s PLUNDER: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021) is an incisive and engaging “3G” story of a young man returning to his family’s former home on the Polish-German border in search of a connection with a grandfather he never met — and the relatives he never knew he had.

Taking up his late grandfather’s efforts to reclaim the family’s apartment building in Sosnowiec, Menachem Kaiser finds himself in a Kafkaesque legal battle within Poland’s mercurial courts and changing government. Between trial appearances and consultations with his attorney — an octogenarian nicknamed…


Norbert Troller watercolor sketch of children in the Terezin Ghetto.
Norbert Troller watercolor sketch of children in the Terezin Ghetto.
Norbert Troller, “Terezin, Children.” Courtesy of the Leo Baeck Institute.

I’m not here to discourage anyone who’s given serious thought to writing Holocaust literature for young readers. There are some truly wonderful children’s, middle grade, and YA books about the Holocaust out there — we’ll talk more about them later. They’re invaluable resources for young readers, families, and educators. But there are some distinct challenges to this kind of writing project that are worth discussing, which I hope you’ll weigh in on in the comments or feedback form. Let’s start with the most obvious one:

The subject is frightening.

Young readers are often much more resilient than adults realize. Kids even like being scared…


Writing with a pencil in a leather-bound notebook with crumpled drafts on a wooden table.
Writing with a pencil in a leather-bound notebook with crumpled drafts on a wooden table.

Odds are, you’re here because you have a writing project about the Holocaust that you want to pursue.

You’re in good company.

Roughly 180 original works and new editions of Holocaust fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and scholarship are due for publication in the next quarter alone. That’s two books every day.

Do all of those books sell? No, but many of them do — and in high volume. There’s a huge market for books about the Holocaust, which plenty of writers and publishers find reason enough to produce them.

Others are motivated out of personal connections to this moment in history, or an interest in…

Kletsker

So you want to write about the Holocaust…

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