Morton Freshman Center,
Morton East High School, and
Morton West High School
Recently, I spent two days at the J. Sterling Morton High School District 201, talking to different groups of high school students about writing and researching.
At the Morton Freshman Center, I met with three groups of AP World History students as well as some members of the book club.
I spoke about my book, The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp. I knew nothing about Breendonk the first time I visited it back in September 2010, but I knew almost immediately that I wanted to write a book about it. It took four years of research (using material in other languages) to accomplish my goal.
I also explained how and why I chose to write about the Holocaust, beginning with my two other books on Kristallnacht and Auschwitz. I told you the story of a little girl named Albertine De Houwer, whose mother, Charlotte, was arrested by the Nazis. Even though she was in prison, Charlotte wanted to do something special for Albertine, so she made her a doll from her underclothes. Later, she was transported to Auschwitz where she was murdered. Six weeks later, her father, Louis, was arrested and sent to Breendonk where he was one of the first executed prisoners. This is the kind of story I have told throughout my book on Breendonk.
Everyone received a copy of my book, which I autographed after our session. You asked really good questions, and I enjoyed our time together. It was a really special day!
I want to thank your exceptional librarian and staff--Mrs. Burke, Mrs. Ruiz, and Mrs. Kazda! Mrs. Burke planned and arranged a truly wonderful day for everyone involved!
At J. Sterling Morton West High School, I spoke to world history and journalism classes about The Prisoners of Breendonk. My visit was written up in the school's digital magazine, The Sterling, by feature writer Heriberto Luna. His account of my talk is right here. We had a great couple of sessions, with excellent questions!
I want to thank Mr. Luna for his excellent article as well as Mrs. Ocasio-Bowman, your librarian, and her staff for helping with my visit.
Finally, at J. Sterling Morton East High School, I met with students in anatomy classes as well as students in the book club. Here, I spoke about my book, Faces from the Past: Forgotten People of North America.
I told the story of the Mexican Soldier from the battle of San Jacinto, the last land battle in the war for Texas independence. I explained how the battle was fought and what happened to many of the Mexican soldiers. I also recounted how John James Audubon became involved with a number of skulls and how eventually the soldier's face was reconstructed by artist Amanda Danning on a plastic copy of the skull.
I also told the story of Thomas Smith, a buffalo soldier, whose body was stolen from his grave at Fort Craig, New Mexico, by some pothunters in the 1970s. I spoke about this unbelievable crime, led by a man who was called "Gravedigger." Even though the government could not get justice in this case, I explained how sometimes an author can deliver another kind of justice in trying to right a terrible wrong.
I want to thank Mrs. Lorraine, your librarian, and her staff for helping with my visit.