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Prejudice takes many forms. Set in New Jersey just before World War II, Come to a Memory: Joab’s Story/Lila’s Story is about two classmates who are both bullied in school for different reasons.
Joab arrives in Lila’s fourth grade class as the new kid, and is greeted with scorn because he’s a half-Jewish refugee from Germany, and everyone knows that Germany is the enemy in the war. He talks funny and dresses differently, and has a black number burned into his arm. The teacher sits him next to Lila, another student who is belittled by the other students. She comes from a poor extended family, and her grandfather is considered the town fool. Can these two forge a friendship and survive against all the odds?
This historical novel reflects how memory can affect current relationships, and is set as a backdrop to life during wartime. It also depicts the slow development of friendship through patience and kindness in the face of childhood bullying.
The story takes place in a small suburban northern New Jersey commuter town at the very beginning of World War II, just as the Great Depression is lifting for some, but not for others. Lila’s family (extended and living in one large house divided in two) is poor and her grandfather rants to his son, Lila’s father, about letting the bank foreclose on part of his property and on their livelihood.
Early rumblings of war reverberate from newspaper headlines and the evening news with Lowell Thomas.
Lila is an outcast at school, since she is poor and lives in an odd house with her grandfather, the town tyrant and fool. The first day of the school year in 1939 is clouded with sadness for Lila because of the noise coming from her backyard. A bulldozer is razing her family’s greenhouses, disturbing the peace of the neighborhood, and she is tormented by her classmates because of it.
The child is self-conscious about her house, which she has divided into the “green” and “blue” sides. She and her nuclear family represent the green, and her aunts and grandparents are blue. This, along with being old-fashioned in dress, add to Lila’s ostracism.
Keywords:- World War II, Bullying, Friendship, Holocaust, Depression, Child Refugee, Family Dynamics