Today we're excited to spotlight Who Are You, Trudy Herman? by B.E. Beck! Read on for more about B.E. and her book, plus an excerpt & giveaway!
Meet B.E. Beck!
FINALLY, THE TRAIN rolled forward and the endless rhythm of wheels spinning over the tracks became our reality. We shifted our luggage to new positions and settled in for a long journey. For the next three days, we would travel west through the woods of Virginia, into the steep hills of West Virginia and Kentucky, and south through Arkansas, as though we were tourists joyfully traveling across the country rather than detainees on our way to internment in Texas.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, I fell under the spell of the swaying rhythm of the rocking train. When I woke, the noonday sun was beaming down through the dirty window. My blouse was fused to damp skin and my hair clung to my neck.
“Here.” Mom said as she placed a cup of water in my hand. She opened the cloth bag she’d carried over her shoulder and pulled out a homemade bun stuffed with ham and cheese. “Let’s eat a little now,” she said.
The food stuck in my throat even though I chewed slowly, the sandwich reminding me of home. A memory of what I’d left behind. Mom had made ham-and-cheese sandwiches for Maggie and me to take to the pool.
“Feel better?” she asked after I’d taken several bites.
I nodded. I didn’t trust myself to tell Mom what was on my mind. I didn’t want to think about home. “Can I go see if Eddie wants to play cards?”
Eddie was seated in the last row at one end of the railcar. “Sure, honey.”
“Let’s go see if we can find a place to play,” Eddie said as he pulled the cards from his sack and set off toward the other end of the car.
Eddie and I stopped at the last double-seat at the end of the railcar next to an old woman who was wearing a red hat and traveling alone—a large, black bag lay on the seat next to her. “You two looking for a place to rest?” She gave us a kind smile before opening the black bag. “Please, sit with me. Tell me about yourselves.” She retrieved a small sack, her wrinkled hands loosening the drawstring and pulling out small pieces of hard peppermint candy.
We each took a piece, stuck the candy into our mouths, and dropped down onto the empty bench across from her.
“Thank you,” Eddie said, his cheek rounded with the candy.
I nodded my thanks.
The woman smiled again. “You must be friends.”
“We went to the same school. I’m going into seventh grade. Eddie is a year ahead of me.” “So, you’re Eddie, are you? Well, I’m Ruth Schuler. And what’s your name, young lady?”
“Trudy. Please tell me about yourself.”
I don’t know if I responded because of Ruth’s soft, encouraging voice or because of the comforting motion of the train. Or because I’d had no one to talk to for so long.
As the train flew west across the land, traveling closer and closer to the internment camp, I sorted my memories of the last weeks. Memories that were jumbled like the dots in a picture I’d seen at Maggie’s house. One glance and an image appeared, a second look and a different figure leaped out. Reflections flashed from memory to memory until one came clearly into focus.
I shifted the hard candy to my jaw and spoke of my life. Of how happy we were with a baby on the way and a trip planned to Washington, D.C. Of Maggie and my plans to spend the summer at the pool learning to swim like the champions, Esther Williams and Gloria Callen, and the secrets we shared. Of our dreams of being like her seventeen-year old sister, Patricia, who was beautiful and always had a boyfriend to take her to the movies. I spoke of winning the blue ribbon for being the best speller in my class. I took a deep breath, recalling when the war came to our door and described the three men arriving, searching our home, making us feel like captives, and taking Dad away. Everything changed, I said, and explained how our friends and neighbors ignored us, how I became invisible to Maggie and the other students at school, even to my teacher, and finally, the heartbreaking loss of my baby sister or brother.
Tears rolled down my face. I wiped my forearm across my eyes.
Then, with the lull of the railcar’s steady rocking and Eddie by my side, my words continued to flow. I spoke of the recesses I’d spent hiding in the girls’ restroom crying from the heartache I suffered at the hands of my classmates and teacher.
I described the scornful looks of the two boys who stopped me on the street and called me a kraut, a term I didn’t even understand. And my terror from the loathing on their faces as they taunted me.
At last, I explained the resentment I felt that out of millions of German immigrants in America, my dad was designated as an enemy, when I knew he was not.
“You’re a strong, brave girl, Trudy. And to see what’s happening to you two young people breaks my heart. However, rest assured, this experience will change the young girl and boy who dreamed childhood dreams into adults who demand justice. We might have true Paladins in the making here.” Ruth said.
“Paladins?” Eddie asked.
“Don’t you know the legend of Paladins?” Eddie and I shook our heads.
“Paladins,” she began. “The original Paladins were twelve brave knights, also known as twelve peers, who were great warriors of the Emperor Charlemagne. A Paladin used magic gifted to him by the high heavens to uphold the causes of virtue and truth, to help all. Today, a Paladin is an advocate or defender of truth and justice.”
Who Are You, Trudy Herman?
By: B.E. Beck
Release Date: May 8, 2018
One winner will receive a copy of Who Are You, Trudy Herman? (US only).