We had to read Zlata’s Diary in ninth grade, and I remember thinking, Sheesh, if I were Zlata as a grown-up, I would really wish these diaries weren’t out there. They are just like the diaries I kept at that age, lots of Oh why is this happening to me, and How can these trivial things make me happy when there is so much darkness in my life? – the difference being, of course, that she actually had bad stuff happening to me; and the other difference being that I sensibly chucked my old diaries in the trash when I reached the age of reason.
However, I am glad that not everyone did that, and I really enjoyed reading these diaries from all different wars, esp. WWII, my favorite war to read about because Hitler was a Very Evil Villain, and hooray for defeating him though down with bad behavior of a retaliatory nature at Dresden. (Ours not his.) I like reading other people’s letters and diaries. If I were not on a specific and necessary book-buying embargo, I would be buying L.M. Montgomery’s journals right this minute.
I like Susan Sontag. I really do. One of these days I am going to read one of her proper books, rather than just essays – thoughher essays are excellent. Regarding the Pain of Others discusses the idea of war photography – whether the iconic war images we all remember were real or posed, and whether it matters; whether we lose sympathy as we become inured to seeing gruesome images and videos on the TV every night; the role of photography in memory of horrific events; how these images can make people into voyeurs as well as witnesses; and all sorts of things. She raises more questions than she answers, writing as she always does with lucidity and compassion.
I do not like reading this sort of book. I find it really upsetting. However, I signed up for Jeane’s DogEar Reading Challenge – everyone does these but me! I feel so left out of the challenges party! but not anymore! – and in order to make myself read this, I made Children Who See Too Much one of the books I was going to read, a nonfiction book on a topic I don’t usually read about (because it makes me really upset). And it worked, voila! I read it.
It made me really upset. I cry really easily, but seriously, I had to sit next to a box of tissues while I was reading this, because the stories Ms. Groves tells about children she worked with are so tragic (it’s banal but true!). What gets me is how responsible many of the children seemed to feel for the violence they witnessed – as a great big control freak, this resonated with me. I think it’s important for people to be aware of how children process what they see, and that children – like adults – need to talk about traumatic things that happen to them; and important for parents to realize how conflict between them, particularly violent conflict, can have a profound and lasting effect on their children. So I am glad I read this book.