Lenni Reviews: “They Called Us Enemy” by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker

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This graphic novel biography details George Takei’s four years in American Japanese internment camps during WWII.

I read this book with tears in my eyes the entire time. I remember learning about these camps in school and back then I couldn’t imagine people being so backward, paranoid, and inhumane.

But that was middle school me. Thirty-eight year old me has seen the news in 2019.

This book is not easy to read because people suck but much like putting myself through Maus and Irena; it does remind me that humans can also be amazing. I had to opportunity to see Mr. Takei speak about his time in the camps and I’m glad I did. I hope people realize one day, history will look back on us just as we look back now on what we did to the Japanese back then. 5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Irena Book One: Wartime Ghetto” by Jean-David Morvan, Séverine Tréfouël & David Evrard

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

This graphic novel tells the story of Irena Sendlerowa, a social worker in the Warsaw ghetto in the early 1940’s who helped smuggle 2500 Jewish children out of the ghetto before getting captured and tortured by the Nazis.

While of course, this is not easy to read, it is an important story and I am glad to see it told. I’m not sure I would give this to a young person as it doesn’t flinch much from the horrors of the ghettos and Nazi torture but it’s still a great book. If I had a nitpick, it would be the ending. Spoilery but it shows her walking off into the light as if she died when she didn’t. She lived into her 90’s. 4.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “No Ivy League” by Hazel Newlevant

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*This book has been given to me in exchange for an honest review.

Sheltered homeschooler Hazel Newlevant takes a summer job clearing ivy from the forests in Portland, Oregon. At first, she’s just looking to make some quick cash for a concert but she finds her small world opened when interacting with more diverse kids.

I like this book because the main character isn’t a racist who comes around. Hazel has legitimately not interacted with anything other than other white, affluent, homeschooled kids and comes to realize there’s a bigger world out there. She has been given advantages others may not have and instead of being some White Savior or being riddled with White Guilt, she just makes friends and starts dancing. I respect that.

I do feel more needed to be done with her parents and their reasons for homeschooling Hazel. The mother does go into her backstory a bit but if systemic racism and white privilege are being addressed, more was needed with Hazel’s realization about why her mother chose this rather than a couple of panels and one trip to the library. But that’s just me. Overall, I enjoyed it. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Spinning” by Tillie Walden

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We follow Tilly through her ice scating years as she struggles with growing up, coming out, and generally trying to figure out what to do with her life.

These graphic memoirs are really frustrating in a way because you see these talented kids with shitty parents and shitty friends trying desperately to find some sort of foothold in their lives. But I guess that’s the point, for these stories to get told and we can learn from them. But the mom and best friend in me bristles at the crappy people not helping our main character.

Putting my soapbox aside, this is an interesting read. I like the story, even if it gets slow sometimes, and I enjoyed learning all these things I never knew about figureskating. I can’t say this book is for everyone due to those moments in the story that are slow but I give this a solid 3.5 out of 5.

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