The Compulsive Reader: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys Plus an Interview and Contest

Monday, March 28, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys Plus an Interview and Contest

Lina's entire world is shattered the night that the NKVD storms into her home and takes her and her mother and brother away. Her father is missing and their family is torn apart, forced into cattle cars along with thousands of other Lithuanians, and taken to Siberia. Lina doesn't know what her family has done wrong, but her life becomes a constant struggle for survival as winter approaches and the prisoners are treated less than animals by the NKVD. The only thing that keeps Lina alive is her hope in reuniting her family, her friendship with fellow prisoner Andrius, and her artwork that she uses to document her experiences and communicate with others. But, as the bitter winters set in and the months stretch into years, she has to wonder...is it enough?

Between Shades of Gray is heartbreaking, horrifyingly brutal, yet important book. It tells a story long covered up and forgotten, and Sepetys boldly illuminates the tragedy of the forced deportations of hundreds of thousands of people in Lithuania and the Baltic region during World War II and the terrible crimes committed against those people by the Soviets. The novel is packed with emotion, and Sepetys tells it in short chapters of affecting prose that will grab hold of the reader and not let go. Lina is an observant and intelligent narrator who deals with the atrocities by committing them to her artwork, and at the same time she also attempts to send messages to her father and give hope to the small community of people her family has aligned themselves with. Through all of their trials, Sepetys illustrates how terrible hardships bring out the best and worst in people, and that the human body and spirit is far more resilient than anyone could ever imagine. Despite how tragic and impossible Lina's plight is, Between Shades of Gray is also not without its small triumphs as Lina fights to survive and come to peace with the circumstances surrounding her family's imprisonment. This impeccably researched novel is terribly important, and it is my hope that it will find a home in every classroom in the country.

Cover Comments: Beautiful, hopeful cover. It's perfect.

ARC picked up GLIBA.

Ruta was kind enough to stop by for a moment and answer a couple of questions about her book:

TCR: Why did you choose to give Lina the ability to draw as the means to express herself?

RS: When I was doing research for the novel, I learned that many survivors voiced their pain through art and music. It was the only way they could express themselves as speaking of their experience would have meant punishment or imprisonment by the Soviets. Also, my father is an artist and I thought it would be a small tribute to him.

TCR: Did having a personal connection to this story make it easier or harder to write?

RS: On one hand, it made it easier because I was familiar with the dynamic and culture surrounding the history. On the other hand, it was difficult because the horrible things I was writing about had happened to people I met.

TCR: Can you recommend any other books to readers looking to educate themselves on Stalin's purging of the Baltics?

RS: Thanks so much for asking! I’d like to recommend:

DVD: Red Terror on the Amber Coast by Domedia Productions
DVD: The Singing Revolution by James Tusty & Maureen Castle Tusty

TCR: Do you think that you'll write any other books set in Lithuania or set during Stalin's reign?

RS: Initially, I didn’t think so, but I’ve been receiving emails from readers asking me to continue Lina’s story. So you never know!

Thank you so much for having me here at The Compulsive Reader!

Thanks, Ruta!

Now, courtesy of Penguin Books, I have a signed copy of Ruta's book up for grabs for a U.S. reader. Leave me a comment below to enter to win!


~The Book Pixie said...

This book made my Top 20 Most Anticipated Books for 2011 and I want it so badly! Thanks so much for the contest! :D


Jules said...

Interesting post.

Shame I don't qualify being all the way over in the UK.


Val said...

This one has been on my TBR list since I first saw it. Thanks for the chance to win.


Nise' said...

Another great review. Looking forward to reading this book.

jpetroroy said...

This looks amazing--I can't believe I'd never heard of this.

Annette Mills said...

Thanks for the giveaway. I've read a lot about this book, and the author, and agree that it's a book that must be in my library (and of course, on my reading list!)


SarahEm said...

Can't wait to read this book.

smartin_90 (AT) yahoo (DOT) com

Emily said...

This book was AMAZING, and I'd love to have a signed copy!

The book girl said...

I've been wanting to read this book for so long! It's such an interesting topic to write about for YA. Thanks for the contest!


Jessy said...

I feel like it's one thing to read about something horrible happening but to know that it happened to someone you know has to heart-wrenching. Thanks so much for the chance to win a copy of SoG.

findjessyhere at gmail dot com

Carly Reads said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carly Reads said...

Just read an article in the Wall Street Journal about this book! So looking forward to it ... I hope I win!


Molly said...

When does this come out? I'm gearing up for a Holocaust unit with my 9th grade class, and I would love to pair it with other books about the time period in less popular areas.

And it wouldn't be bad to have a free copy for my classroom library ;)

Lexie@BookBug said...

Sounds like a very powerful read! I would love to win this book! Thanks for the giveaway!
lexie.bookbug at gmail dot com

Allison said...

I have read so much about this book and although I think it is going to be super sad, it's going to be good.

Sylvia said...

I really can't wait to read this book! It is very interesting and tragic at the same time!


Stamanah said...

I can't wait to read this book!

Sarah said...

This sounds like a GREAT book! I hope that with this release and other books being published like this we can learn from the past and not make these same cruel mistakes in the future. Thanks for the contest!

tow_of_hearts_101 at yahoo dot com

Veronica said...

I've heard so many good things about this book and have been hoping to read it soon. Great contest!


amandalicious said...

sounds really interesting!


Megan Earley said...

I've heard so many good things about this book--would love to win!
mearley1979 at gmail dot com

Katie said...

cool thanks for the giveaway!!! and great interview!


Diana said...

I'm not sure if i'm still on time... but if I am, please enter me :) thank you!


Unknown said...

Is this still open? If so, I'd love to enter. Thanks so much!


Sophia said...

I'd love to enter this, if it's still open. Thanks for the giveaway! :)


Alyssa said...

is this contest still open? if it is please enter me!

my email is alyssap22@msn.com