Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America

Overview

Wednesday, December 10, 1941

“Hitler speaks to Reichstag tomorrow. We just heard the first casualty lists over the radio. . . . Lots of boys from Michigan and Illinois. Oh my God! . . . Life goes on though. We read our books in the library and eat lunch, bridge, etc. Phy. Sci. and Calculus. Darn Descartes. Reading Walt Whitman now.”

 

This diary of a smart, astute, and funny teenager provides a fascinating record of what an everyday ...

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Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America

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Overview

Wednesday, December 10, 1941

“Hitler speaks to Reichstag tomorrow. We just heard the first casualty lists over the radio. . . . Lots of boys from Michigan and Illinois. Oh my God! . . . Life goes on though. We read our books in the library and eat lunch, bridge, etc. Phy. Sci. and Calculus. Darn Descartes. Reading Walt Whitman now.”

 

This diary of a smart, astute, and funny teenager provides a fascinating record of what an everyday American girl felt and thought during the Depression and the lead-up to World War II. Young Chicagoan Joan Wehlen describes her daily life growing up in the city and ruminates about the impending war, daily headlines, and major touchstones of the era—FDR’s radio addresses, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Goodbye Mr. Chips and Citizen Kane, Churchill and Hitler, war work and Red Cross meetings. Included are Joan’s charming doodles of her latest dress or haircut reflective of the era. Home Front Girl is not only an entertaining and delightful read but an important primary source—a vivid account of a real American girl’s lived experiences.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This contemplative and often entertaining collection of journal entries, poems, clippings, and sketches by the late Morrison, edited by her daughter, spans the tumultuous years between 1937 and 1943, which took Morrison from age 14 to 20, and took the world from the Great Depression into WWII. Morrison’s parents were Swedish immigrants who settled comfortably in Chicago, and Morrison details her school day concerns and studies, exploring the city, her crushes on boys, attending the University of Chicago, and her thoughts on religion, books, films, and more. She also comments on the increasingly dramatic news of the day, from the Hindenburg crash (“The Herald Examiner said 100 people were killed, but as it’s a Hearst paper, 50 is a safer guess”) to Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into the war (“Well, Baby, it’s come, what we always knew would come”). Her sensitivity to and exuberance about events large and small is contagious, though her poetic tendencies are tempered by her doubts, intellect, sarcasm, and savvy. Witnessing Morrison mature as a woman and a writer is invigorating and memorable. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

“An important and refreshingly engaging word painting of a far more innocent time in U.S. history. Home Front Girl is all about the thrill of being young, of questioning, and dreaming … and how those dreams can so easily begin to shatter under the crush of impending world events. The perspective here could not be more pure. Recommended!” —Graham Salisbury, author of Under the Blood-Red Sun and Eyes of the Emperor

“This captivating diary of the years leading into World War II provides a fresh view of the American scene, before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor."  —Donald A. Ritchie, author of Doing Oral History

"Home Front Girl reveals the perceptions of a creative, brilliant, and hopeful yet genuine teenage girl in an uncertain and perilous era. Joan’s charm, naiveté, curiosity, and philosophies (reminiscent of Anne Frank) revealed in her journals left me with the hope that such depth of thought, creativity, sweetness, and forgiveness—as well as her sense of wonder—may still be found in today’s generation of young people."  —Joan Hiatt Harlow, author of Star in the Storm

"A Chicago teenager's journal–riveting and real–recalls an era when adolescence was a preparation for adult life."  —Richard Peck, author of Fair Weather

"Her sensitivity to and exuberance about events large and small is contagious, though her poetic tendencies are tempered by her doubts, intellect, sarcasm, and savvy. Witnessing Morrison mature as a woman and a writer is invigorating and memorable." — PublishersWeekly.com

"These diaries are a treasure on a scale with Anne Frank's. They tell the remarkable story of a real girl in a momentous time in history, from a unique viewpoint full of humor, insight, and emotional highs and lows on both a personal and an international level." —BlogCritics

"A fine, insightful and sometimes moving journal composed by a wholly likable young woman—better than fiction."  —Kirkus

"[The book] provides a window into the 1940s, a time so different than today, technologically, but strikingly similar as well. . . . An excellent [way to] . . . understand what the average citizen was experiencing while war unfolded."  —VOYA

VOYA - Ellen Frank
This is a coming-of-age memoir of life in America between 1937 and 1941. If you have ever questioned how the American people stood by while Europe was torn apart, this book will answer some of those questions. Fourteen-year-old Morrison begins this diary as Hitler begins conquering Europe. She is a normal teenager, questioning her teenage romances, her teachers, the political times, and the world around her. The diary provides a window into the 1940s, a time so different from today, technologically, but strikingly similar as well. Each time world events seem so deadly, it is amazing how we can envelop ourselves in a bubble and not realize the impact historic events may have on our lives. Susan Morrison found her mother’s diary after her mother’s death in 2010. The diary was a warm reminder of her mother’s presence, something today’s computer generation is missing. The diary could be used to encourage students to write their own memoirs or as a conversation starter for intergenerational programs. Poems, photos, newspaper clippings, and drawings add insight to the period. Famous events touched upon are the Lindbergh kidnapping, the coronation of King George and Queen Elizabeth, the Nanking massacre, the appeasement talks between Hitler and Chamberlain, and more. The book is an excellent addition to an American history course to understand what the average citizen was experiencing while war unfolded. Some of the entries will be interesting to students, but the best use of this diary would be to cull the interesting entries with the historical event being discussed. Ages 11 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—World War II is not the focus of this book. Instead, what Morrison presents is social commentary on the times. Her diary entries span the years 1937–1943, from the time the author was 14 until she was 20, and reflect her home, school, and social life with a bit of news thrown in. Her original drawings, photographs, and newspaper clippings (and transcripts) add interesting and authentic content. Readers will find young Joan to be intelligent, but at times flighty, inspiring yet also boring, humble and often quite proud-a normal teenager. However, today's teens might find it hard to relate to her life and find the vernacular of the era difficult to follow. Footnotes explain unfamiliar vocabulary and people, but also interrupt the flow of the text. This posthumous publication was compiled and edited by the author's daughter and is a good primary source to complement an American history textbook; it might also be enjoyed by readers who like historical diaries of real people.—Wendy Scalfaro, G. Ray Bodley High School, Fulton, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Chicago schoolgirl Joan Wehlen was known for her writing skills--quite correctly, as her always-entertaining 1937-1942 diary proves. Fourteen when she began recording her thoughts and day-to-day activities in her diary, Joan had an eye for detail and an intelligent sense of the importance of events that were occurring in the world around her. Her entries, while often funny and frequently self-deprecating, presage the inevitably coming war: "We are no different: every generation has been burdened with war….It is just that this is my generation." Fear of the impending war is a common theme in her life; it haunts Joan's dreams. But in spite of those concerns, she remains upbeat and enthusiastic. The diary reveals her amusement at wearing "a horrid but glamorous" color of lipstick, mild flirtations with "B.B.B. in B.," the "Beautiful Blue-eyed Boy in Biology," and her efforts to manage homework at the kitchen table. She tries to sort out her feelings on religion and the inevitability of death but chuckles over repeatedly counting the steps--"One-two-three-four, one-two-one-two"--during an awkward dance. In sum, readers will likely be surprised by just how much like them Joan is, in spite of her having written her work 75 years ago. A fine, insightful and sometimes moving journal composed by a wholly likable young woman--better than fiction. (period photographs, editor's note) (Nonfiction. 11-18)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781613744574
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/1/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 957,772
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Joan Wehlen Morrison (1922–2010) grew up in Chicago and attended the University of Chicago before moving to New York and later New Jersey. She was adjunct professor of history at the New School for Social Research. Susan Signe Morrison, Joan’s daughter, is a professor of English literature at Texas State University–San Marcos and the author of two books on the Middle Ages.
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