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Winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Young Adult Literature
A gripping middle grade biography of Charlotte Salomon, and an ode to how art can capture both life’s everyday beauty and its monumental horrors.
"It’s my whole life" are the words Charlotte Salomon is said to have used to describe a series of thirteen hundred paintings she created between 1940 and 1942 while in hiding from the Nazis. The paintings are an extraordinary, vivid document: saturated in the sunlit colors of the Mediterranean; full of powerfully expressed love, anxiety, joy, and despair; and arranged as a sequential narrative overlayed with painted words, like a graphic novel. The story they tell is one of a prosperous childhood in prewar Berlin, of fleeing from the Nazi regime after Kristallnacht, and of going into hiding in southern France. There, as the war closed in, Charlotte Salomon painted feverishly, documenting her life and the often troubled lives of her family, her escape to and existence in France, and her struggle to come to terms with the darkness falling around her. When Germany took control of the region, she packed up the paintings and gave them to a friend for safekeeping. Shortly afterward, she was betrayed and deported to Auschwitz, where she was murdered.
Charlotte Salomon’s painted memoir has been compared to Anne Frank’s universally famous work as a visual analog to Anne’s diary. It tells a compelling story—not only of the war and the Holocaust, but of a passionate, creative young woman hungering for a place in the world and the ability to express herself. In It’s My Whole Life, Susan Wider charts Charlotte’s life and illuminates her work in a distinctive first biography for young readers.