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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Home Front Girl

Review of Home Front Girl by Joan Wehlen Morrison

Overview from This diary of a smart, astute, and funny teenager provides a fascinating record of what an everyday American girl felt and thought during the Depression and the lead-up to World War II. Young Chicagoan Joan Wehlen describes her daily life growing up in the city and ruminates about the impending war, daily headlines, and major touchstones of the era—FDR’s radio addresses, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Goodbye Mr. Chips and Citizen Kane, Churchill and Hitler, war work and Red Cross meetings. Included are Joan’s charming doodles of her latest dress or haircut reflective of the era. Home Front Girl is not only an entertaining and delightful read but an important primary source—a vivid account of a real American girl’s lived experiences.

My Review:

This one is a hard one to review but I decided that I just had to do it since I think it is such an interesting book. It is basically tells the story of the life of a young girl from the 1937-1943.

Her name is Joan and she lives in Chicago. This is her diary and we are witness to her private thoughts both about her personal life and what is going on in the world at the time she is writing. The diary takes her from age 14 to 20 and is often padded with entries from her school journals when the regular diary has missing periods.

I have been reading partly for research on a novel that I have been working on that also features a teenage girl as narrator. I thought it might help me with some tone and dialogue problems that I am having but it so much more than that.

Joan is still relatable today, even if some of the expressions she uses are not. And actually even a few of them surprised me, such as her use of the word “uh.”

Like most of us, she is full of contradictions. On the one hand, she gets excellent grades and considers herself the “intellectual” type but her spelling is terrible in some places. We also hear from her own pen that she is not so good at Geometry or German. I can relate to the Geometry part and was relieved to hear that some smart people have trouble with it too.

The German classes surprised me also since, from my research, I have also found that the government tried to convince people with blood of the Axis powers in their veins from speaking the Axis language. So why were they ok with non-Germans learning how to speak German when they wanted German Americans to stop. Hmmm.

Not sure what else to say since there really is no main storyline to talk about. But I knew that I just had to bring this book to your attention since I think it is well worth reading and will probably surprise you as it did me.

The only downside I found was her reference to Winston Churchill as "pigface" but I reminded myself that she was a teenager and maybe that is what he looked like to teenage girls once upon a time.

I think I will just end with a quote. Here it is: “Oh well…someday I’ll be a genius. Bruce wants to be a psychiatrist (I can’t even spell it!) but I wouldn’t let him examine my brain though Frazier said I wouldn’t miss it. (Grrrr.)” That says it all, right?

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