GUEST WRITER SARA BAMFORD RECOMMENDS BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL
Ruta Sepetys celebrated the 10th year anniversary of Between Shades of Gray by adapting the story into a graphic novel- and it does not disappoint. The graphic novel was adapted by Andrew Donkin with art by Dave Kopka and colour by Brann Livesay who worked brilliantly together to provide the readers with an emotional connection to this historical depiction through images.
Between Shades of Gray is an important read. Considered historical fiction, Sepetys provides readers with a perspective that, to most, was overshadowed by the many horrific events of World War II. The story follows the deportation of Lithuanian citizens to the bleak back world of Siberia under Stalinism. Thousands were herded like cattle into boxcars and blindly shipped across the continent, only to endure inhumane conditions. The story is told through the eyes of a young girl, Lina, whose family is deemed as criminals by Stalin, and are subjected to deportation. Lina’s artistic talent lies within a pencil on paper- she uses this talent to record the horrific conditions and treatment, along with mapping their travels to Siberia in hopes of connecting with her father again. This is a story of power in love and hope- to be able to return with her family to Lithuania someday.
This was an illuminating read for me- to learn of the enslavement of Lithuanians by the Soviet Union and the continued discrimination years after the war. Sepetys provides historical context at the end of the graphic novel to inform readers that these stories are not as prevalent because for years after the war, Lithuanians were treated as criminals and forced to keep their experience quiet through harsh surveillance by the government. Sepetys also reveals that although the characters are created based off of many stories heard from survivors, one character, Dr.Samodurov is real.
This graphic novel adaptation literally illustrates the haunting horrors of WWII Soviet prisoner camps. Kopka and Livesay vividly capture the bleakest moments of the story in colour choices and words that leave the reader simply staring at the page to capture each emotion.