Jean Rodenbough has put together a wonderful collection of essays and poetry concerning life as a child during World War II. She's linked the elements of her book with a narrative that describes what was going on during that difficult time. Some of the descriptions are personal and some cover current events from those years. This interview is a chance to get to know Jean as an author. Her book is available at Amazon.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you believe you achieved them?
I felt compelled to write about the time of World War II, in part because I was a child during that time and lived in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese military. My purpose in gathering the stories of other children and their experiences was to illustrate the need for an end to wars, in light of the horrors perpetrated on non-combatants as well as the military.
There has been a growing volume of books which deal with that time, and I wanted to tell the story from my perspective as presented by the stories.
The test of whether my goal has been achieved will be the reactions of the readers of the book.
Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
I met Walter Falk, who now lives here in Greensboro, whose name was given me as one of the children in the Kindertransport, a rescue operation for (mostly) Jewish children in Germany and Poland, sending them to Great Britain, most of them to England but also to other countries in the British realm. Once the war began when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the program was ended. Walter and I have become friends and after getting his story, detailed previously in a feature by one of the writers for the local newspaper. We now meet occasionally and share our stories and also current activities. He is in his mid-80’s and remains active and interested in news events here and elsewhere in the world. His wife died a few years ago, and he lives alone in his home.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Making decisions about what to include. I found a number of collections of stories told by those whose childhood was spent in the midst of that difficult time. At first I extracted some of their experiences, but then realized these stories had already been made public, so I took them out of the book and simply summarized their circumstances. Instead, I was able to get stories from those I knew personally for the most part, and made their experiences the relevant ones. I still had to decide what to include and how to use them. The book took such a long time to write chiefly because of these decisions.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Aside from the sense of accomplishment in fulfilling my goal of writing about the children of that war, I had a variety of other good feelings in writing it. I felt strongly about making a case for never having another war, a hope that so far has not been fulfilled. Another major enjoyment, or at least satisfaction, was using my poetry as commentary on events and situations described. There are times when poetry can speak to deeply emotional conditions of hardship better than prose, whether in narrative or in historical detail.