One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
The second book featured in the History Series. One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping, a Dear America diary by Barry Denenberg.
Summary: Julie Weiss is a Jew living in Vienna, Austria. Through her diary entries, she tells of the experiences of being one of the few Jews in her class. Her family, like so many other hard-working Jewish families, is well-off, living in a fancy apartment. But once the Nazis occupy her beloved Vienna, the changes are sweeping. Her family endures being kidnapped in the night to remove pro-Austrian signs of sidewalks. And worse. But mercifully, Julie is sent to New York to live with her aunt and uncle. But she most go alone and make a new life for herself.
When I was little, I loved the Dear America series. Back then, you could go to Barns ‘N Noble or your local library, and pursuing the shelves, you could find any number of historical novels. Today, I get excited if I can find one historical novel that I haven’t read yet (One, that is, that’s actually about the War and not just a love story).
My mom was a fan of the Revolutionary War period, but as with the American Girl books my favorites were always the Depression and WWII stories (Hence, my favorite girls were Molly & Kit).
One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping, may not have been the first WWII/Holocaust children’s literature I’d ever read, but it was probably the first . . . shocking one I’d read. This was the first one that really scared me.
Oh, I’d read simple books like Behind the Bedroom Wall or Number the Stars, but those, while still Holocaust stories, were, well, tamer.
Reading about Julie’s experience with the Nazis showed me, for the first time, the truth about Nazi oppression. And it’s much more horrid than we even learn about in our History classes.
The great thing about any Dear America story is that it’s told in diary form; that gives it a much more personal feel. You’re getting a much better feel for how the protagonist feels. And as Julie’s world crumbles around her, she shares her thoughts and fears. Actually, you feel with Julie. Especially that night when the Nazis come knocking on the flat’s door and drag away her parents. Then, we feel Julie’s complete and utter hopelessness . . .
But then, Julie’s aunt and uncle send for her and Julie suddenly finds herself able to escape Nazi occupied Austria for America. But she has to go alone. We adjust to America with Julie. We feel her helplessness vanish as she experiences the theatre and, in one of my favorite scenes, the automat.
Eventually, America and her Aunt and Uncle becomes her new home.
One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping, is to this day one of my favorite WWII children’s novels. And, like all Dear America books, it ends with a “Life In . . .” section, which contains notes, explanations, and pictures. In other words, children learn an awful lot about history through Dear America books and One Eye Laughing.
Note: There are some intense moments, as it is a Holocaust novel.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Era: Pre-WWII (1938)
Featured in Austria in WWII
Goodreads: One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping