Today’s post is courtesy of Jackie Minniti, author of Jacqueline.
My father was a veteran of WWII. As a Baby Boomer, just one generation removed from that war, I thought I knew a lot about it. I was aware of the players – the Axis and the Allies. I was familiar with the names of the famous and infamous. I’d learned about Pearl Harbor, the Normandy invasion, and the Battle of the Bulge. I’d read about the Holocaust and had a sense of its horrors. But it wasn’t until I decided to write a book about a little French girl named Jacqueline that I truly understood the amazing contribution made by our Greatest Generation.
In 1944, four years before my birth, my dad was a handsome soldier with the 127th General Hospital. Shortly after D-Day, his unit arrived in Rennes, France to set up a military hospital. There he met Jacqueline, an inquisitive 10-year-old who took a liking to him. She began following him from the barracks to the hospital and back again. While neither understood the other’s language, they learned to communicate by teaching one another a few words and phrases punctuated with exaggerated gestures. Soon, a beautiful friendship blossomed, and the tale of that friendship was the only war story my father was willing to share. He told it so often, sometimes with misty eyes, that it became a part of our family lore.
After I wrote my first book, Dad began “hinting” that I write one about Jacqueline. I explained to him that it wouldn’t have a large enough audience, and there wasn’t sufficient material for a book. A few years later, someone suggested that I write it as a middle grade novel because his 6th grade daughter knew nothing about WWII. I still don’t know why it never occurred to me to write the story for young readers, especially since I spent years teaching reading in middle school, but once I started looking at the story from that perspective, all my doubts disappeared.
Never having written historical fiction, I realized that I needed to learn a lot more about WWII. I plunged into the research, and the more I learned, the more I realized how little I actually knew. I learned about the grinding oppression imposed on the French by their Nazi occupiers. I read about the horrors visited upon the Jewish population of France. I was moved by the bravery of clergy members and everyday citizens who risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors. But most of all, I was awed by the incredible bravery, selflessness and sacrifice of the American GIs.
Looking back at these young men and women from the perspective of a sixty-seven year old, I was struck by their youth, many away from home for the very first time. I was humbled by their willingness to risk their lives for the country and values they held dear. I was by astounded by the humility and fortitude with which they endured hardships only their fellow GIs could truly understand. And I was blown away by their determination to stare evil in the face and vanquish it at any cost.
I became committed to ensuring that young readers understand the price that was paid for their freedom. We lose hundreds of our WWII veterans each day, and their stories are disappearing with them. My dad died six months short of his 100th birthday, and I feel tremendously blessed that he died knowing his story would live on. It’s essential to preserve these stories for future generations so children will know about the sacrifices made by our military and realize how blessed they are to live in the Land of the Free. So many of today’s students lack a thorough understanding of American history, and what they don’t learn from history, they’re doomed to repeat. Jacqueline is my personal effort to keep that from happening, and I sincerely hope it will inspire young readers to appreciate what their great-grandparents did for them. We owe these disappearing warriors (and all our veterans) a debt we can never repay.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jackie Minniti was born and raised in the heart of New Jersey. She spent 25 years as a classroom teacher and was an education writer for the Courier Post. After retiring from teaching, she moved to a small beach town on the west coast of Florida and began writing full-time. She decided to incorporate her classroom experiences into a book that would combine the readability of a novel with the elements of a self-help book and give readers an intimate peek behind the faculty room door. “Project June Bug” is a result of that effort. The story of a dedicated teacher’s efforts to help a student with ADHD, “Project June Bug” won several literary awards including an Eric Hoffer Book Award, a National Best Books Award, a Royal Palm Literary Award, a Next Generation Indie Book Award, four Parent to Parent Awards, and a Mom’s Choice silver medal. “Project June Bug” was also chosen as Book of the Year by Premier Book Awards.
Jackie’s second novel, “Jacqueline,” is a middle grade historical based on an experience her father (a WWII veteran) had while stationed in France shortly after D-Day. It was the only war story he was willing to share and became part of the family lore. Set in Nazi-occupied Rennes in 1944, “Jacqueline” is a tale of faith, family, unlikely friendships and the resiliency of the human spirit. With the drama of fiction and the authenticity of personal history, it is both a story about family and a family’s story. “Jacqueline” is published by Anaiah Press and has won an Eric Hoffer Book Award and received a Literary Classics Seal of Approval and a gold medal for historical fiction from the Literary Classics Book Awards.
Jackie is currently a featured columnist in The Island Reporter, a publication that serves the South Gulf Beaches in St. Petersburg, Florida. Several of her stories have been included in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. She also writes a blog, “Fabulous Florida Authors,” featuring some of the outstanding writers from the Sunshine State.