Who Are You, Trudy Herman?

Written by B.E. Beck
Review by B. J. Sedlock

Trudy Herman’s parents had emigrated as children to the U.S. from Germany in 1909.  In 1943, Trudy is a typical American teenager, riding bikes with friends and dreaming about dating boys.  So it is a shock when officials come to raid their house looking for evidence that her parents have wartime contacts back in Germany.  Trudy’s father is taken away, and eventually Trudy and her mother must give up their belongings and join him in an internment camp in Texas, under trying conditions.

After the war they are released with only the possessions in their suitcases.  People are wary about associating with former internees, and Trudy’s father has difficulty finding anyone who will hire him.  Eventually he gets a teaching job in rural Mississippi.  Northerner Trudy must adjust to Southern ways, and is especially disturbed by segregation customs.  She witnesses their maid, Ellie Mae, being harassed by boys from her school, but Trudy’s flashback to a traumatic event from the internment camp paralyzes her wish to help.

This novel starts out well.  It was interesting learning about the internment of people of German ancestry, and conditions in the camps. Trudy is a likeable person, has a warm relationship with her parents, and several minor characters are well-drawn.  What disappointed me was the ending.  The story just fizzles out, as if the author had to rush the end to meet a deadline.  Trudy does get another chance to help Ellie Mae, but the one last page of text after the crisis does not tie up the story enough.  An additional chapter exploring what Trudy might do next, after processing her experiences, would have been a lot more satisfying.