The Silence of Fragmentation
Ethical Representations of Trauma in Young Adult Holocaust Literature
Holocaust literature is a challenging space in which to write, seeking to convey an event that cannot truly be represented in words: the systematic destruction of millions of lives, an estimated 1.5 million of which were children who were permanently silenced in the concentration camps. Young adult authors have the added challenge of creating texts that convey the trauma of the Holocaust in ways that are accessible to teenage readers, attempting to reconcile a moral duty to historical accuracy with the desire for an engaging, empathetic novel. This article addresses the evolving use of silence and fragmentation to represent the trauma of the Holocaust in three young adult novels from the last thirty-five years: Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose (1992), Marianne Fredriksson’s Simon och ekarna (Simon and the Oaks, 1985), and Sharon Hart-Green’s Come Back for Me (2017). As this event recedes further into history, historical knowledge of it may be in decline, while anti-Semitism is still prevalent. The Holocaust is something about which we must continue to speak, but now we must do so in different ways. Building on the work of Lydia Kokkola and Leona Toker, this article demonstrates how silence has been used to represent the trauma of the Holocaust as we become increasingly removed from the event. If a traumatic event is understood as it returns to a victim in shards of memories, then fragmentation can be used to recreate the experience for a reader, representing the chaos as opposed to attempting to order it. By writing in a form rife with silent gaps in narrative, knowledge, and understanding, young adult authors can select that which they reveal to their readers according to present historical knowledge while simultaneously mimicking the chaotic, fractured experience of trauma itself. Ultimately, that which is not said becomes as powerful as that which is.
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