Tuesday, April 24, 2012

JBA Post #8: Is It Night or Day?, Fern Schumer Chapman

Is It Night or Day? follows Edith (Tiddy) Westerfeld as she journeys to America during World War II. Tiddy's family is from a small town in Germany, and they are the only Jews left in town. Tiddy's father desperately wants to leave, but he refuses to go without his mother and she is determined to stay in Germany.
So, the father sends his two daughters - Tiddy and Betty - to America by themselves, on a huge ship. At first the journey seems almost like a grand adventure, but when they arrive in America, things get harder. Betty goes and lives with a foster family, while Tiddy lives with her aunt and uncle in Chicago. Tiddy becomes almost Cinderella-esque in her Aunt Mildred's house: she cleans, carries groceries home, and is even sent out when they have parties.

I really liked this book because it showed how terribly Jews were treated even in America during WWII. I think that's something that most people don't know about. For instance, once fighting got intense between America and Germany, Tiddy got a letter in the mail that she was considered an "enemy alien" by the U.S. Department of Immigration, and had to register as such and carry her papers around with her at all times. There were also kids at school that were mean to her.

The book talks a lot about identity - Tiddy's struggle to assimilate and find her identity in Chicago, as well as her aunt's struggle to appear wealthy even though she's not.

The book was interesting but relatively dry and sometimes a little slow.

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