March 1, 2019, was the launch of my new book, MY DEAR BOY: A World War II Story of Escape, Exile, and Revelation.
MY DEAR BOY’s World War II story of escape, exile, and revelation is an inspirational account of my Czech dad’s survival during wartime, a cinematic epic spanning multiple continents, a love story, and ultimately a tale with a twist—a nurturing story that will move readers for generations to come.
While celebrating a decade of research, writing, editing, writing and seeking a publisher (thank you literary agent Steve Harris and Potomac Books), I couldn’t forget my time already spent in classrooms which make all this work entirely worthwhile.
Inspired by the heart of my story – the discovery of a treasure trove of World War II stories revealing amazing tales that accompanied my father as a forcibly displaced person traveling through five continents—students went in search of their own family history. Like a fingerprint, every one of their stories is unique. Here’s a sampling to show – this is why I do what I do. We can learn from the past and from what we learn, understand our role in changing the world for a better future:
- A young man interviews relatives to uncover that his great grandmother escaped the Nazi’s by fleeing the country in a coffin, on a ship, that left her in America, alone and alive.
- A teenage daughter interviews her grandparents, who adopted an orphan, her mother, and gave her the gift of family.
- A student interviews her parents to uncover that her great uncle was a POW and escaped war by digging a tunnel with a spoon (sounds like a movie, but it’s real).
- A student translates an old diary and finds out that he is related to ancestors that were a part of the Trail of Tears and also the Gold Rush.
- Another young gentleman interviews his father and grandfather to learn of how his father was a radio celebrity that fled Haiti to avoid persecution for expressing freedom of speech and what being in America means to them.
- One of many compelling stories was a young teenager daughter chronologically citing her own father’s struggle with a nicotine addiction and her own fears of life and death.
- And even the simple stories of the first relative to attend college and change the course of education and opportunity in the family, or a grandmother’s struggle to raise 4 children in a tough world while suffering from a disease, or crossing the border illegally, has helped define character in these students.
The teacher’s quote makes my heart sing:
Little did I know that this project would give me the gift of purpose and meaningful discourse with my students. Mrs. Schirm set out to write her books to share her father’s story because it is one worth telling and reading. Like dominoes, her books have started a ripple effect which will continue to vibrate in these young minds as they grow and continue to revisit their roots, allowing little opportunity for them to get lost or drift aimlessly. Students have started to solve their own puzzles and develop a clearer image of who they are and what they need to accomplish in life. I share much appreciation with them and Mrs. Schirm and would be happy to help any educator start a journey like mine. Nilam Patel, firstname.lastname@example.org