Silver Days by Sonia Levitin, 1989.
This is the second book in the Journey to America Saga.
Escaping from World War II Europe was only the first step for the Platt family. Now that they are reunited in the United States, survival is still a struggle. They have very little money, and Lisa’s father struggles to find work and a permanent place for his family to live. Along the way, they encounter people who are prejudiced against them, some because they are Jewish and some because they are German, and are forced to confront certain prejudices that they hadn’t realized that they held as they settle into their new country and learn to live alongside people from different backgrounds who live very different lives.
Lisa describes her family’s day to day struggles and adventures with understanding. In Germany, her father had his own business, selling coats, but he has to struggle to get into the clothing business in America. Her mother, who had once had her own servants in Germany, is forced to take a job as a maid to help make ends meet. Besides the basic problems of learning a new language, dealing with a lack of money, and trying to find work, she also describes the parts of American culture that take her family by surprise. There are religious issues because most of the people around them are Christian, and Lisa’s mother is upset when her youngest daughter, Annie, ends up getting a role in her school’s Easter play. Her mother also isn’t sure what to make of the Japanese family who lives next door when Annie makes friends with their daughter.
Meanwhile, the war that they had feared is becoming a reality. People in the U.S. are starting to support the war effort, collecting materials that the army can use, starting Victory Gardens to help support themselves during food rationing, joining the army, and volunteering as nurses. The Platts also experience survivor’s guilt as they hear reports of friends and family who weren’t lucky enough to escape the Holocaust.
The Platt family is realistic, and they have their arguments as the stresses of all these changes take their toll on them. But, they are a loving family and continue to support each other through everything. The title of the book comes from a song, “Golden Days”, about looking back on happy times. When Lisa’s little sister Annie asks her if these are their “golden days”, Lisa tells her that she doesn’t think so, but she thinks that they might be silver ones, days leading up to happier times ahead.
In some ways, the children of the family have an easier time dealing with all the changes than their parents. In the beginning, they are aware that they don’t quite fit in, although they desperately want to. However, they do manage to make new friends, and Lisa and her older sister, Ruth, even find their first loves. While the world around them is changing, the three sisters also change, growing up, finding new interests, and learning more about themselves and the kind of lives they want to live in their new home.
There is a third book in the series called Annie’s Promise, which I don’t have and haven’t read. It focuses mainly on Lisa’s younger sister, Annie. Unlike her older sisters, Annie doesn’t remember much about life in Germany because she was so young when they left. Most of her life has been spent in America, and she can’t understand why her parents are so old-fashioned about many things compared to the other people around them. In this book, Annie (now twelve years old) tries to become an independent young woman, but also comes to understand her family better.