PURE GRIT — Strong Women in Historical Fiction

Let me start off my saying that yes I know it is the holidays and I should be sharing a holiday themed list with you.  Truth be told I didn’t do one and for me to try to put one together now would be a futile effort as most of your students are out for the holidays.  Besides, “holidays” is such a broad term it would be impossible for me to fairly represent every holiday so I did not even try.  That’s the kind of perfectionist I am.  If I know I can’t do something perfect then I don’t bother with it.  I could stretch the holiday theme thing by saying that a certain holiday is all about a strong women and her baby boy.  This list is a testament to all strong women (and I think we all are).  It is inspired by the first book on the list, Pure Grit, a story of WWII nurses.  You will notice that there are no Katnisses or Beatrices in this list.  I focused on women in historical fiction and the majority of the books are from war periods when our character is truly tested.  I have put a star next to all the titles I have read and whose value I can personally attest to.  Please take some time this vacation and read one of the following titles or suggest one to a student, your daughter, your son, your husband, your wife, your mailman.  They are all great stories!

***Pure Grit: how American World War II nurses survived battle and prison camp in the Pacific
By : Farrell, Mary Cronk.



***Rose Under Fire
By : Wein, Elizabeth.
When young American pilot Rose Justice is captured by Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck, the notorious women’s concentration camp, she finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery, and friendship of her fellow prisoners.


***The Extra
By : Lasky, Kathryn,
Is the chance to serve as an extra for Hitler’s favorite filmmaker a chance at life — or a detour on the path to inevitable extermination? In this chilling bu t ultimately uplifting novel, Kathryn Lasky imagines the lives of the Gypsies who worked as extras for the real Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, giving readers a story of survival unlike any other.


***Little Women
By : Alcott, Louisa May,
The classic story of beloved matriarch Marmee March and her four daughters–domestic Meg, headstrong Jo, sensitive Beth, and artistic Amy–who grow to adulthood while their father is serving as a chaplain in the Union Army during the Civil War.


***Between shades of gray
By : Sepetys, Ruta.
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and brother are pulled from their Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp while she fights for her life, vowing to honor her family and the thousands like hers by burying her story in a jar on Lithuanian soil. Based on the author’s family, includes a historical note.


***The Witch of Blackbird Pond
By : Speare, Elizabeth George.
Kit Tyler’s new home in the Connecticut Colony is nothing like the home she left behind in the Caribbean, and when she befriends another lone and mysterious figure believed to be a witch, she herself is accused of witchcraft.


***Fever, 1793
By : Anderson, Laurie Halse.
In 1793 Philadelphia, sixteen-year-old Matilda Cook, separated from her sick mother, learns about perseverance and self-reliance when she is forced to cope with the horrors of a yellow fever epidemic.


***A Northern Light
By : Donnelly, Jennifer
In 1906, sixteen-year-old Mattie, determined to attend college and be a writer against the wishes of her father and fiance, takes a job at a summer inn where she discovers the truth about the death of a guest. Based on a true story. Mattie Gokey has a word for everything. She collects words, stores them up as a way of fending off the hard truths of her life, the truths that she can’t write down in stories. The fresh pain of her mother’s death. The burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his brokeback farm. The mad welter of feelings Mattie has for handsome but dull Royal Loomis, who says he wants to marry her. And the secret dreams that keep her going–visions of finishing high school, going to college in New York City, becoming a writer. Yet when the drowned body of a young woman turns up at the hotel where Mattie works, all her words are useless. But in the dead woman’s letters, Mattie again finds her voice, and a determination to live her own life. Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, this coming-of-age novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

By : Smith, Sherri L.
During World War II, a light-skinned African American girl “passes” for white in order to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots.



***The Book Thief
By : Zusak, Markus.
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel–a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.


I guess it would have been more efficient to put a star next to the one book I haven’t read.  I guess I know what I’ll be picking up at the library this week.


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