Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of The Book Thief, we learn what Rudy Steiner did in the infamous Jesse Owens Incident. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Book Thief.

Mom, I want to be Prince Eric.

My mom was on the other side of the counter bar, shuffling thick slices of bread in a frying pan, the oil popping and cracking dutifully. Her hair was longer then, not as sharp as the latter days when she would die it a vibrant red or a sharp magenta orange color. She wore that same Taco John’s apron from her years working as a manager at a location in downtown Boise, a place I always wanted to visit. When she wore that apron, it was a sign to us that she meant business, in a literal and metaphorical sense. Sometimes, we knew she was heading to work and we might get lucky if she brought us back some churros or Potato Olés, those crispy potato disks I loved so much. Or, in this case, it meant that she was busy, and asking her mundane questions or making absurd request would generally earn a response of silence or scorn. I was about to get the latter.

“Mark, he’s not real. You’re not a Prince.”

No, I’m pretty sure I’m him, I told my mom. We have the same color hair. He’s totally the same.

“Mark, he’s a cartoon,” she replied, turning to face me, a plate of French toast in her hand. She plopped it down on the counter in front of me as I excitedly twisted my stool chair back and forth, making it squeak.

Squeak squeak squeak squeak. Mom, I think I’m related to him. Squeak squeak squeak squeak. Remember when you told me I was adopted and we didn’t know my dad? It’s Prince Eric.

Mom turned back from the crackling pan of my brother’s toast. He was nowhere in sight. “You have to be joking me.”

Squeak squeak squeak. No, I think it’s totally true. Prince Eric is my father.

She sighed and turned away again. “No, that’s not how it works, Mark. Maurice is your father.” She turned back, correcting me with the spatula directed at my face. “And just because he has black hair does not mean he is related to you. Eat your goddamn toast.”

Squeak squeak squeak. I need syrup, Mom, I said. Squeak squeak. And if Prince Eric were here he would probably get me a gallon of syrup.

I pushed a bit too hard. Silently, steaming, my mom got that giant jug of Mrs. Butterworth’s I worshipped so much and slammed it on the counter, quickly turning away from me. I felt the heat rush to my cheeks and I knew I’d upset her and I didn’t like when she was upset. She would start yelling soon.

Thanks for the French toast, Mom, I offered.

Silence. Then. Squeak squeak squeak.

She rushed around, that spatula shining with oil, and she rapped the back of my left hand with it and I recoiled in terror, the squeaking stopped, and I sat, enraptured by the furious gaze being sent my way.

“You listen to me,” she said, in that tone that was way too loud and way too certain. “You are not Prince Eric. You are not related to that fool. It is a cartoon. I am your mother. Maurice is your father. I don’t want to hear another word of it today or anytime else again. Ok?”

Silence. Then. The sound of my fork slowly tearing apart my toast as I felt the tears brim on my eyelids and I fought back saying anything again.

“You don’t know what I went through to get you,” my mom continued, only this time she was talking to my brother’s toast. “You don’t know how hard it was and you don’t know what I gave up and you don’t know what I sacrificed. You are mine and you always will be.”

I didn’t understand what she was saying. I was eight. And Prince Eric was the first person I’d seen who even resembled my twin brother and I, our shiny, jet black hair, and our fuzzy eyebrows and our lanky bodies. Despite that my mother wanted me to so desperately let go, I held on to the thought, deep inside, but I never shared it.


Mom, can we see Aladdin again today?

We were in Ford Aerostar, the one my mom would own for over a decade, and I was alone in the backseat, my brother and sister in front of me. It was a Saturday, a familiar December weekend for Riverside, bitterly cold and windy, but the promise of being able to leave the house, even if it was to accompany my mom on a shopping trip, was a brief sign of hope. I wasn’t allowed out in those days and many of the years to come. “You’ll get beat up,” my mom would say, or sometimes she’d give me, “There’s a man waiting to kidnap and molest you in every park,” even though those days would involve lonely jaunts in a park utterly devoid of anyone besides my father and brother playing catch and my sister putting about on her Big Wheel. I never got a Big Wheel. They were too dangerous. I’d hurt myself and break my legs or my arms. My sister was allowed one. She was three and a half years younger than me.

Some days  my mom would tell me I didn’t deserve to go outside of the house because I hadn’t lived up to her expectations. I didn’t get an A+. I didn’t win the Spelling Bee. I didn’t come in first place in the Science Fair. One more reason after another, compounding in my heart, making me start to believe that these things were real, that my mother’s suspicions and fears had to be based on some sort of truth.

This day, however, I was allowed to come with her to the mall. I might get a new shirt, but I doubted it. But maybe I’d get to see things I liked and stare at them, like the giant LEGO castle in the window of KB Toys. I’d really like that, but I knew not to ask for it for this Christmas. My mom couldn’t afford it. We only had a few Christmas celebrations where I bounded out of bed to presents underneath a tree, a bountiful wave of materialistic joy. This would not be one of them, but if I got the chance to leave my stuffy home off of Tyler Street, I would take it. It was a glimpse at freedom.

“No, we can’t see Aladdin. I have shopping to do for a few friends and some of your relatives. And you’ve already seen it twice,” she stated. “You don’t need to see it again.”

My sister wasn’t paying attention. She was playing some battery-powered game involving ninjas that I wasn’t allowed to have because it would rot my brain. My brother was cycling through a handful of football trading cards, their glossy surfaces reflecting just so if the sunlight pouring in through the van’s windows hit them just right. I wasn’t going to get any support from either of them.

I absently joined the seatbelt next to me together. Unbuckled. Buckled. Unbuckled. Mom, can I ask you something?

“I’m not buying you anything today.”

No, no, not that. I’m not asking you for something.

“Oh.” She was surprised. Which made no sense. I didn’t ask her for things. She knew that.

Mom, do you think I’m Egyptian?

I felt the van jolt slightly to one side and my mom’s emerald eyes flicked upwards to meet mine in the rear view mirror. “Why would you say such a thing?”

I was just thinking…you know. Because of Aladdin. He looks so much like me! We have the same skin color and the same hair and I’ve never seen anyone like him before.

My mom just laughed in response, but it was not a laugh of joy or silliness. “Mark, you know nothing of the world. That’s not how it works. Remember when you thought Prince Eric was your father? Now you’re related to Aladdin? That’s just stupid.”

Ok, I didn’t mean I’m related to him. I just meant what I was born as.

Those green eyes returned to the mirror. “You were born as my son, Mark,” my mom said much more forcefully. “And you are white.”

I’d never heard her say that, but it confused me. What do you mean?

You’re not Egyptian or Arabic or Mexican or anything else. You are white, just like me.

But Mom, my skin is so dark. How is that possible?

I was met with silence. No eyes in the mirror, and now I was aware that my brother and sister were both staring at me, giving me that look. Now you’ve done it, they were saying. Now you’ve made her mad. And we all knew that whomever upset our mom deserved scorn from the rest of us.

We pulled into the Galleria after what seemed like an eternity in bitter silence. My mom did this thing when she pulled into parking lots with a large number of cars. She’d ask her guardian angel for help, to find a spot as close as possible to the entrance. It always seemed so arrogant to me, maybe even a waste of a metaphysical being if that being had a maximum usage limit. Using your own personally assigned angel for parking? Despite that, far more often than not, it worked. She’d find someone pulling out right next to the handicapped spot or she’d find a spot by the exit door, and she would thank her angel and never question the process again.

My mom did no such thing today. She said nothing. She pulled into the nearest spot to the parking lot entrance, a hike to the mall, and she got out silently. I knew I’d done it. My brother pulled open the sliding side door and he and my sister poured out without protest. But as I slid from the back to seat to move out of the door, my mom slid into view, blocking my exit.

“You are white.”

I stared at her face, the creases forming into her forehead, and her eyes boring into mine, and I shivered. I couldn’t help it. I’d always tremble when she got this way.

“You are white. You are not some dirty Arab or Mexican and I will not have a son who expects life to give him handouts.”

What? What are you talking about?

“You are as white as a piece of paper. I am not going to listen to you insist you are anything else.”

Mom, but I am so dark! I don’t get it.

The fury boiled in her eyes. “You don’t want to be anything else. I want you to go to a good school and get a good job and be successful and I don’t want you to grow up with some chip on your shoulder or having a disadvantage working against you or have the world treat you as anything than what you are. You are white, Mark! You are fucking white.”

I stared at her, the heat in my face again, and the terror swelling in my chest. I was just saying, Mom, I’m sorry.

“That’s just not how the world works,” my mom said, backing away from the door, the light flooding the interior. “You don’t know how the world works. You are not anything like that cartoon character and you’d be best to learn that as soon as possible.

I stepped out of the car, my brother staring at me with a wistful gaze, and my sister absently grabbed my mother’s hand and began to trot away. I shut the van door, hearing the click of the lock, knowing that despite the lecture I’d just received, I knew even less about the world than I had just a few minutes before.


A few notes about this chapter. I don’t normally include this after I get to do some storytelling (which I haven’t done in a while!), but there are still a few things/themes that I couldn’t address in my story about learning about race as a child.

First of all, as Muave Avenger pointed out in the comments Friday’s review of chapter eight, Zusak has slightly altered the reality of Jesse Owens’s story. Hitler did not refuse to shake Owens’s hand. On the first day of the games, Hitler had only shaken the hands of the German victors, and Olympic committee officials had ordered that Hitler shake all victors’ hands or none of them at all. He chose the latter, which is why Owens did not get his hand shook. (Muave said that it was Cornelius Johnson, the winner of the high jump, who was snubbed that first day, but I can’t seem to find specific evidence of it yet, so if anyone has more concrete info on the exact order of events, I will totally update this and include it here.)

I also love the way that Rudy’s actual incident is narrated so much closer here, especially with him imagining that there is an actual crowd of spectators chanting his name. I’m actually intrigued how this is going to play out for Rudy and what role it will take in his life.

Finally, the bolded section, THE CONTRADICTORY POLITICS OF ALEX STEINER, is probably my favorite aside of Death’s so far, as it clearly demonstrates how his family’s privilege for looking the way they do operates, especially in an internal sense. Alex’s actions are not motivated out of hate. He does not have any explicit hate of Jews or minorities. What goes through his head is far more casual, as outlined in Point Two, and it’s his mental acceptance of the positive business aspects that demonstrates how racism and prejudice can even influence the subtlest of ideas in a person. Despite that Alex has that “itch” in his heart that he knows this is wrong and that he is wrong, his privileged situation allows him to ignore it.

Brilliant chapter. I’m enjoying this book a great deal.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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101 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Chapter 9

  1. SophiePatronus says:

    Oh, Rudy Steiner, how I love you.
    I really enjoyed Alex's 'contradictory politics,' because it seems like in several stories about World War II and/or civilian Germany during that time period, every German character is either someone who would love to personally kill Jews or is totally tolerant and doesn't want anything to do with the Nazi party. Both types of people definitely existed, of course, but Alex's vague ideas seem really realistic and refreshing to me.

    Also, Mark, that was one of the most gut-wrenching stories you've ever told us, in my opinion. I really want to be able to say something intelligent about it, but really, I don't have much. It hit a bit close to home.
    Honestly, if I could eradicate one thing or idea from the world, it'd be racism.

    • Cheri says:

      I would eradicate religion. More so, "my religion is better then yours so now we have to kill you".

    • Saber says:

      I'd eradicate judgements. Religion is a positive thing for many, many people. If we could find a way to keep that positive faith but not judge people by it…

  2. anninyn says:

    Oh, Mark. I am sorry that your mum couldn't find a better way to relate to you than unpleasantness and dislike. For all the terrible things that have happened to me, for all my parents were flawed and frequently selfish the one thing I always knew was that they adored me, no matter who I was. That knowledge helped a great deal in the darkest moments of my life.

    The way Alex Steiner is presented here is a very effective way to show us the reality of it all- we've seen those who love and support the fuhrer in a frightening and obsessive way, and now we see a man who turns a blind eye out of fear and complacency. Just as bad, just as damaging but morally more understandable through our point of view.

    (Logging in under this account yet again, as our computer went down and yet again 'kytten' has disappeared)

  3. psycicflower says:

    I really love this chapter. I think this does a great job of explaining the situation and attitudes of normal, everyday people during Nazi Germany. It’s so easy to say ‘how could anyone support Hitler’ ‘why did people not do anything’ but if you put yourself in their place it’s really not that hard to understand, even if you don’t think you’d be like that yourself. It’s also not hard to see it in today’s attitudes. How many times have you heard people talking about those terrible immigrants coming and taking all our jobs or sponging off our welfare system or *insert racism as a stupid reason for some flaw you see in society here*. I mean fuck the local independent candidate who had ‘Irish jobs for Irish citizens’ as the first point (it got worse) on his leaflet last month but I can sadly see how that would appeal to some people.

    “Rudy panted, bending down and placing his hands on his knees. "I was being Jesse Owens. "He answered as though it was the most natural thing on earth to be doing. There was even something implicit in his tone that suggested something along the lines of, "What the hell does it look like?"”
    There’s just something undeniably sweet, for want of a better term, about Rudy and the Jesse Owens incident. It’s Nazi Germany where everyone different is being persecuted and Owens is seen as sub human and yet here’s this little German boy who doesn’t see that, just an amazing athlete. He wants to be Jesse Owens so much so that he blacks up to be like him and it isn’t some big political statement, just a child playing pretend backed up by an imaginary crowd cheering him on.

    “Point Five: Somewhere, far down, there was an itch in his heart, but he made it a point not to scratch it. He was afraid of what might come leaking out.”
    It’s also understandable (not excusable, never excusable) where Mr. Steiner is coming from and I imagine a lot of people had that kind of internal conflict.
    And then you get the sadness of Mr. Steiner trying and failing to explain it all to a child who just wants to be like his new hero. I mean ‘big, safe blue eyes’ is so sad. Again we have the interesting dichotomy of seeing it from a child’s perspective while understanding ourselves the larger context of the time.
    ”But nothing was clear.
    Rudy understood nothing, and that night was the prelude of things to come. Two and a half years later, the Kaufmann Shoe Shop was reduced to broken glass, and all the shoes were flung aboard a truck in their boxes.”

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    • cait0716 says:

      I agree that there's something incredibly sweet about Rudy wanting to be Jesse Owens. Without his father there to teach him the differences*, and that "we" are better than "them", it may never have occurred to him. I'm really interested to see how this affects him growing up.

      *Clearly he realized that he was different from Jesse Owens, but different jut meant different. Not dangerous or scary or inferior. Just different

      • psycicflower says:

        It's so heart breaking when Mr. Steiner is telling Rudy that he shouldn't want to be like anyone different than themselves and you find out that Rudy doesn't even know what being Jewish means, nevermind how it could be seen as a bad thing.

  4. After Mauve Avenger's Jesse Owens comment, I read Zusak's wording very carefully, and he doesn't actually write that Hitler refused to shake specifically his hand. It says (paraphrasing, because my book is all the way over there *points to spot 15 feet away*) that "tale of Hitler's refusal to shake his hand spread around the world." Which is true. Even if the actual details of the tale aren't.

    I may just be fanwanking, though.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Nah, it's a good distinction and Zusak probably did it deliberately. And a story is more powerful than reality, sometimes.

    • Mauve_Avenger says:


      "Talk that he was subhuman because he was black and Hitler's refusal to shake his hand were touted around the world."

      "Talk that…Hitler's refusal" doesn't make grammatical sense, though the "touted around the world" part does make it a bit questionable.

      Still, I tend to get antsy when writers repeat myths like this, even when it's *technically* true the way they've written it. If I had never heard the story of Jesse Owens at the Olympics before reading this book, I would think of it in terms of "Jesse Owens was snubbed by Hitler," not "A lot of people touted the idea that Jesse Owens was snubbed by Hitler."

      For me, it doesn't lessen the value of the story, I just get a little antsy when authors repeat myths like this seemingly without any intention of setting the story straight.

      • I do understand how you feel. I'm the same way about my areas of interest or expertise; when there's a sciency inaccuracy in a book/show/movie, it does usually take away from my enjoyment (can we all PLEASE STOP with the "humans use only X% of their brains" garbage?).

      • erin says:

        Actually, I think it does make grammatical sense. "Talk was touted." "Hitler's refusal was touted." "Both of these things were touted around the world." Not the best way Zusak might have worded that sentence, but still technically correct.

        Hi, I'm a grammar nerd. 😛

        • Mauve_Avenger says:

          My wording was supremely unclear for such a short sentence, so to clarify: I wasn't saying that "Hitler's refusal…was touted" doesn't make sense, I was saying that "talk that…Hitler's refusal to…" doesn't make sense. I was going through both ways of parsing the sentence, and saying that the first way was grammatically incorrect but the second one was grammatically correct and makes my initial assumption (that Zusak was incorrect) more questionable.

  5. shortstack930 says:

    I liked Death's aside in this chapter also, and I liked how Zusak describes Alex Steiner's internal moral dilemma as an "itch in his heart". He knows deep down its wrong but he also knows that in order to keep his family safe he has to keep quiet and go along with it.

    And P.S. Mark when I was little I always wanted to be Ariel. I was so upset that I couldn't be a mermaid and that I didn't have bright red hair, but I used to run around my house singing songs from the Little Mermaid anyway.

    • syntheticjesso says:

      I wanted to be Jasmine. I was platinum blonde at the time, and so pasty white that just thinking about going outside gave me sunburn*, but I was convinced that I could grow up to be like her. I had my mom make me a Jasmine costume for Halloween, and naturally it was freezing that year, so my hopes were dashed.

      Jasmine's still my homegirl, though. Last time I was at The Magic Time Machine, one of the waitresses was dressed up like her, and I totally fangirled a bit.

      *This part is still true. The sun hates me.

    • I wanted to be Belle, Jasmine, then Mulan. I had strawberry blonde hair and green eyes, and was freckly. My friends all wanted to play "connect the dots" on my freckles. When I was a kid I got this bee in my bonnet that brown hair and eyes were the prettiest thing on the planet (because I wanted to resemble Belle), and I hated being so fair-skinned that I had to wear sunscreen in winter. (I hear ya, syntheticjesso!) Later on the Mulan complex only deepened by resolve to have dark hair and eyes.
      Heh, kids are awesome. I loved that Belle loved books as much as I did, erego I thought the look went along with it. Mulan had a sword and was willing to risk anything for her family, so I thought looking like her was the bomb! I think on some level children see qualities they want to emulate first, then see the outside as the "accessories" that go with it. I remember a friend telling me she wanted blonde hair for the first time, because I was utterly baffled. "Who would want boring old blonde hair?" I thought. I was twelve.

  6. cait0716 says:

    I always like when you tell stories about your childhood, Mark. You're really, really good at it.

    The point you made about your mother's reliance on her Guardian Angel to find a parking space feeling arrogant really struck me because that's how I've always viewed prayer, too. It gets right to the heart of my atheism. There's a song I listened to all the time growing up that really encompasses this idea and completely formed my personal (lack of) theology. The chorus and bridge are:

    With all of the hunger, the sickness, the sorrow
    With all of the poverty, bad thoughts, and pain
    Well I'm glad God took time out from His busy schedule
    To help Johnny All-American win the big game

    Now there's five billion of us, inhabit this planet
    Most live in hunger and squalor as well
    And if God's taking time out to win people ball games
    Well I'll buy my ticket and go straight to hell

    ~Johnny All-American by Liam Callaghan and the Water of Life

    Anyway, it's clearly not the most important part of your story, but it struck me and I wanted to comment

    • monkeybutter says:

      I just wanted to third the sentiment. And believing that you have divine help in finding parking spaces while dismissing a child's belief that he resembles a cartoon as ridiculous takes some gall.

    • QuoteMyFoot says:

      Well… damn, I wish I had heard that song when I was younger. I've never really believed in God but when I was little I couldn't really articulate why. THAT. That is why.

      Thank you for sharing, those are very powerful lyrics.

    • Mowgli3 says:

      1) I also love it when you share stories, Mark. Thank you for doing that. 🙂

      2) Excellent song. I am going to look for it…if I find it, I'll let you know.

      • cait0716 says:

        Good luck!

        Seriously, though. I have it on CD, and can rip a copy for you if you want (well, I'm assuming I can). My dad used to travel a lot for business and was a huge fan of local music. He found this band in a bar in Montreal and bought their CD probably fifteen years ago. I'm not sure they or the song ever made it to the internet. I'm not sure they ever even had a record deal.

    • syntheticjesso says:

      This is why I've always hated the things like the Prayer of Jabez or other "PRAY AND GOD WILL MAKE YOU RICH" things. Um, no, dudes, that's not what prayer is for. Yes, if you NEED something, asking while you're praying about everything else is good, but if you're just praying for your own benefit? No. Just no.

      I still count myself a Christian, albeit a rather cynical one. My cynicism is aimed at people, though- as Douglas Adams said, "people are a problem." It's why I haven't attended church in so long. The modern idea of church is so shallow and so far from what I feel it ought to be, I just can't stand it.

  7. monkeybutter says:

    I'm sorry, Mark. I can't imagine how awful it is to have a parent deny your identity, or fight you trying to figure yourself out. And then to attribute bad or inferior characteristics to people with brown skin after you've just talked about your own skin color? That's terrible. I'm holding back tears; I know hugs don't mean much over the internet, but *HUG* anyway. I'll need to check the forum, but one of the "reasons why Mark is the best reviewer ever" has to be "isn't afraid to tell personal stories and relate deeply to what he's reading."

    The aside about Alex Steiner is a great way to show that racism isn't always embodied by smashing windows, burning crosses, lynch mobs, or other violent actions. It's just as dangerous and insidious in its quieter form. Alex Steiner was hardly the only person — German or foreign — who went along with the Nazis for their own self-interest or preservation. Staying silent because you're not affected makes you just as guilty.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      "It's just as dangerous and insidious in its quieter form."


      Internet hugs are accepted at all times. <3

  8. jennywildcat says:

    I loved the aside about Alex Steiner's politics. I've often wondered if there were just regular, everyday, ordinary Germans during Hitler's regime who didn't agree with what was going on, but they didn't know how to fight against it (and in reality, they were probably in the majority and just didn't realize it). When you have public opinion clamoring and screaming out in favor of something that goes against your beliefs/convictions/politics/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, it's sometimes much easier just to keep your head down and your mouth shut – especially if you have a family to provide for. I got the feeling that Alex was scared to death when he saw his son painting himself black and trying to emulate Jesse Owens. The last thing Alex wants is to see his son get carted off by the Nazis and sent to who-knows-where. I'm not saying Alex Steiner's attitude is right nor am I even defending it – I'm saying I understand why he did it.

    It's easy to sit here in 2011 and look back at ordinary Germans during Nazi rule and think "How in the world could you let this happen?" but you really have to put yourself in their position – just how scared everyone was and how serious the situation really got. This story does it beautifully.

  9. JessicaR says:

    One of my favorite chapters in the book. Rudy Steiner, you owned my heart the moment you painted yourself black.

    Oh and Mark, I feel like giving you a virtual hug after reading your personal story 🙁

  10. First of all, as Muave Avenger pointed out in the comments Friday’s review of chapter eight, Zusak has slightly altered the reality of Jesse Owens’s story. Hitler did not refuse to shake Owens’s hand.
    The actual line is "Talk that he was subhuman because he was black and Hitler's refusal to shake his hand were touted around the world " (emphasis mine). Which I think leaves room for the fact that it wasn't true, just touted to be true.

    Finally, the bolded section, THE CONTRADICTORY POLITICS OF ALEX STEINER, is probably my favorite aside of Death’s so far, as it clearly demonstrates how his family’s privilege for looking the way they do operates, especially in an internal sense.
    Absolutely. I re-read the chapter last night, and that section stood out to me as one of those wonderfully effective bits where Death steps away from the story and tries to figure out what makes humanity tick. He doesn't necessarily make all the connections, just lays out the facts for you. Even when the facts are lovely metaphors about not wanting to scratch the itch in your heart, the little place inside you that knows what's right but is dangerous in this time.

    Thanks for sharing your stories. In exchange, a short anecdote about racial identity: someone on the junior high bus asks me, "Do you like being Indian?"

    I don't really know how to answer the question because it's all I've ever been. I can't like or not like it. It's just who I am. I don't have a choice.

    I don't remember my exact response. Think of something poetic and pretend I said it.

  11. Emily Crnk says:

    Mark, I imagine you as the cutest kid in the whole wide world and I just want to give you so many hugs when you share things like this. All of your stories have helped me experience some of my favorite books in new ways, and I am so grateful for that.

    Rudy, you are a gem. Don't ever change.

  12. elusivebreath says:

    Oh Mark, your story broke my heart a little bit **HUGS** As a parent, one of the most important things to me is making sure that my kids are able to have their own identity, that I am a safe place for them to figure that out, and that I never make them feel belittled. When you talked about how you "fought back saying anything," that really touched me because it was like that in my house (I had an abusive parent) and that is probably one of the hardest thing for me: that feeling that you have to swallow what you are thinking and feeling out of fear. I never want my kids to feel that, or anyone else for that matter. Thank you for sharing, Mark, I know it takes courage to write about something that must bring up pain for you.

  13. QuoteMyFoot says:

    I'm glad that Zusak addresses the reality of Germany through characters like Alex Steiner. It's easy to forget, when you study things like politics and battles, what people actually thought, why Hitler got to where he did. I think mostly it was fear. I also wholeheartedly think very few of us here would do anything else if we were in Alex Steiner's shoes.

    That's why Nazi Germany is such a fascinating period of history, at least for me. Millions of people contributed to the Holocaust – people that many here would class as 'good', I imagine. Is Alex Steiner a bad man? I don't think he is. But he and others like him, by ignoring those tiny little itches in their hearts, helped it happen.

    It's easy to forget that and I'm glad Zusak calls attention to it. No, not everyone in the Nazi Party was a bad person. Plenty of them never deliberately hurt anybody. But… is that enough to say they're innocent? I honestly don't know, but that got me thinking about me and what I take for granted. I love this book so much.

  14. stellaaaaakris says:

    When I was in college, one of my majors was history. I wrote my entire senior thesis on the effectiveness of anti-Semitic propaganda in France during WWII. One thing I didn't have a chance to address in that paper, because I was already over the page limit, was the intended audience (I mention that I didn't have room to write about it so it's clear that I didn't get to do as much research on this topic as I would have liked and I am therefore speaking with less authority on this subject than about many other related topics.). In France, it seemed as though special effort was made to inculcate the children with anti-Semitic ideas. Movie theaters had free showings of anti-Semitic films for children whose fathers were working in Germany. A traveling "scientific" exhibit detailing exactly how Jews were inferior to Aryans, complete with busts and papier-mache heads, had discounted prices for groups of schoolchildren. In Germany, I know there was at least one board game and several children's books with incredibly anti-Semitic leanings.

    Your story struck several chords with me, Mark. On a light note, while I never thought I was related to any Disney characters, I always get compared to them. Some people look like celebrities, I look like cartoon characters, from Belle to Pocahontas, from Snow White to Mulan, I've got them all. On a slightly more serious side, I always hated those forms at school that asked me to check ONE box to identify my ethnicity. My father is white, my mother is Asian. I identify as both so I never knew which to pick. I grew up in a town where 98% was Irish or Italian or both (my high school – 99.6% white, that's a real number). I was neither and I never looked as white as the other kids; my skin never gets paler than what could be described as a light tan. It was a very confusing situation for me growing up and I was so glad when I got older that I started to see Multicultural and Two or More Races as options.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Gotta get 'em young. It's just like making the Hitler Youth mandatory. Thanks for sharing that.

      And jeez, did you grow up in a small town?

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        Sadly, no. My graduating class was over 620 students. I think my class was slightly more racially diverse than my brother's 3 years later, which was larger and whiter (the number comes from when he was still in school after I had already graduated). But I know we were the whitest school in this area, for what feels like pretty much always.

  15. I used to want to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle when I was little, Mark <3 *hug* That one brought up some weird conversations about gender and imagination. And not even from my parents – from friends.

    This chapter is so very sad, because it's showing you the internal struggle of the German people who maybe didn't really BELIEVE in everything their leader said and did, but felt they didn't have the choice to disobey. Because disobeying means they would literally take your children away, smash your business, take YOU away, take your HUMANITY away, take your LIFE away… ugh. Ugh. This is what infuriates me when people compare ANY CURRENT FORM OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT to fascism or any recent American leader to Hitler. No. No. You do that, you instantly lose an argument in my eyes because OBVIOUSLY YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE COMPARISON YOU ARE MAKING. (General you, obv).

    • QuoteMyFoot says:

      Not only do they automatically lose any argument ever, they deserve the real-life equivalent of a million downvotes for being so disrespectful to the situations of every person in the world who has ever or does live without freedom of speech.

    • I think I jammed my finger trying to upvote you a million times.

  16. Jen says:

    If it makes you feel better, I managed to break my heel bone on a big wheel bike when I was seven. So they can be dangerous. >.>

    I kept all my fantasies to myself growing up. I wanted to be a genie. I would wish on anything and everything to be one. XD

    I think regardless of racism, though, any parent would be upset with a child covered in charcoal. But to add the racism of the time in, it would be just dangerous for the child. Sad that a child cannot idolize amazing people without consequences if they're not the "right" appearance.

  17. Lianne says:

    Your descriptions of your childhood are so poignant, Mark. I love reading your reviews any way you write them, but there is that extra "something" when you write about your childhood.

  18. potlid007 says:

    In high school we had to write a Junior Thesis, and I wrote mine on the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the hypocritical nature of the United States concerning race relations at the event. I did it partly because of this chapter.

  19. Mauve_Avenger says:

    When I checked to verify Cornelius Johnson's name last week as I read the last chapter, this is the main article I was looking at, from the History News Network:

    I know that I looked at other articles that said the same thing, but now the only thing I can find is the title of an LA Times article from 1984, Bob Oates' "If Anyone was Snubbed by Hitler, It Was Cornelius Johnson," and I can't find any quotes from the actual article.

    Edit: Other sources have said that there was yet another black athlete who was snubbed by Hitler, David Albritton, who would've been on the podium/stand with Cornelius Johnson, as he won silver in the high jump while Johnson won gold:
    This account would mean that the bronze medalist was also technically snubbed, but since it's presumed that Hitler left the stadium at that point because Johnson and Albritton were black, Delos Thurber is seemingly never included in the "snubbed by Hitler" story.

    On to the actual chapter:
    I kind of wonder how the story of Rudy's Jesse Owens Incident got out, because it doesn't seem from his reaction as if Rudy's father would willingly tell people about what his son had been doing. Maybe he told his other children, and they told it to tease Rudy?

    I really like the idea that Liesel would come to remember herself as actually having *been there* during the Incident, given that Rudy was seemingly alone when it happened. It gives the story intimacy; it sort of suggests that Liesel's account of the Incident came from a proud (or at least, not actively ashamed) Rudy himself, rather than it being a story she was told as evidence of how "crazy" Rudy really is. It's as if Rudy described it to her with such loving detail that she could completely imagine herself being there.

    I love the details of this chapter: the moon and clouds that Liesel imagines being stiched into the sky itself, how Rudy's brother's stolen bike "crumble[s] to a halt," "they were chanting Rudy Steiner's name–and his name was Jesse Owens," Rudy's "what-the-hell-does-it-look-like-I'm-doing tone, Mr. Steiner's splintery hair, etc.

    And I'm very glad that my prediction about what this chapter would do turned out to be incorrect. It's really great to see the racism surrounding the Holocaust depicted in a nuanced way; it's something that I really liked about the book Everything is Illuminated, and I was really disappointed to see it largely cut from the movie,though cutting it meant that people who watched it not knowing about the book weren't *tricked,* given how that narrative works. (That's something I'm very conflicted about.)

    On a pure stylistic level, the formatted list of Mr. Steiner's politics was very well done, and I can't imagine that any other way of spelling out his beliefs would have been as successful.

    • syntheticjesso says:

      Probably his siblings found out when he came home. He would have still been covered in charcoal, so presumably they would have seen him. Then they would ask what was going on, and it would have come out. Then, of course, the teasing would begin.

    • notemily says:

      What was the trick in the narrative? I want to be spoiled! Post it on the spoiler blog?

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        I wouldn't necessarily call it a narrative trick in this instance. The problem with adapting that book into a movie was that it's a often-quirky, sometimes-funny book about the Holocaust. They had to cut out more than half of what happens in the book, so a lot of the subtle darkness that would've been a good lead-up to the unsubtle uber-darkness of what happens in the book was lost. So instead, the movie-makers just decided to make the uber-darkness considerably less dark, so as not to shock movie-goers with a sudden and potentially graphic tone shift (like what happened with Remember Me, which I might consider a trick in the narrative), but in doing that lost some of the nuance.

        If you want to know specific thing I'm talking about, it's the third thing on this list:
        Huge difference between what the character does in the book and what he does in the movie.

  20. echinodermata says:

    What struck me the most about this chapter was Mr. Steiner pointing out Rudy's "safe blue eyes." It makes me think Mr. Steiner is more conscious of the injustice occurring than his "contradictory politics" imply. At the very least, this is him expressing acknowledgment that Rudy's physical appearance is making him safe, and I think it also implies that he realizes this is an uncontrollable quirk of fate that makes Rudy safe.

    Now, some sharing time on my part: I'm biracial – half white and half Chinese (technically Taiwanese). The thing is, I look pretty white and easily pass as white to the extent that I usually consider myself to have white privilege and not just passing privilege. I guess I kind of have the opposite story about race that Mark told, as I always grew up knowing I was Asian, but I'd had people disbelieve me and make me "prove" it, usually by ordering I say something in Mandarin. I know I have the luxury of basically being able to choose my racial identity, as many multiracial people who are part white cannot pass as white, and will automatically identify with the minority race only. My point in sharing this is that it's important to acknowledge that racial identity largely stems out of what others perceives one as, not what is necessarily accurate or what the individual thinks about themselves.

    I have "safe" round eyes, and "safe" pale skin. That doesn't negate my heritage, however. And the fact that I can still identify today with that "safe" sentiment expressed in this book kind of makes me hate the world.

    • blessthechildren says:

      I hate it when people argue with someone about their race or background. Seriously, what gets into people? We all know who we are!

  21. enigmaticagentscully says:

    I love hearing stories from your childhood Mark, they're always so well written. 🙂
    I don't mean this in a voyeuristic kind of way, but I've always been very aware of having grown up in an incredibly tolerant environment and it's really fascinating to me to hear about your experiences. I live in a fairly well-off, middle class area of Britain, where things like racism and homophobia are just horror stories on the news – I've experienced bullying, as I think most kids have, but have never met anyone who has faced racial prejudice in this way.
    I think it's so important to open people's eyes to this kind of problem – I know you aren't trying to make some *big political statement* with these reviews, but some of the experiences you've shared have really opened MY eyes to the fact that this kind of prejudice isn't just something from the history books.

    Sorry to be so serious, I'm looking forward to your next review, as always. ^^

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Yeah, I think it's important to hear these stories, Enigmatic Agent Scully.

      And the image of little Mark is calming to me; I can just see him sitting on his squeaky stool and eating his toast. I believe that I can even concentrate on the content of the chapter without whining about anything today. ^_^

  22. SecretGirl127 says:

    Enjoyed your story, but even after all the posts about your mother, I don't think I will ever understand her.
    Two stories that tell you something about my mother…

    1. My parents were both raised Catholic. When we lived in NYC I went to a Hebrew pre-school and kindergarten and had all Jewish friends. My mother didn't want me to feel left out, so at home we celebrated all the Jewish holidays and said the prayers in Hebrew. I found out I wasn't Jewish when I was four and we were going to visit my grandparents. To this day we celebrate all holidays and go to no churches/synagogues.

    2. When I was 7 we moved from NYC where I attended PS232 to El Paso, Texas, where I attended Zach White Elementary School. CULTURE SHOCK. Moved from ethnic diversity to everyone being Mexican. I didn't really think much of it because I am Italian and blended right in from a coloring standpoint. As my mother tells the story, after a year or so I come running into the house after school panting and excited. "You are never going to believe it, there's a black boy in White School!" He was the first black person I had seen since moving to Texas and that's when my mother realized she was going to have to work extra hard to keep my mind open in such a small town. Plus she was horrified to hear I thought I had been purposefully sent to a white school.

  23. zuzu says:

    I wanted to be like Pocahontas when I was little. She was the only Disney princess that had black hair and brown skin like me. Although luckily my parents didn't see anything wrong with that and even got me a Pocahontas costume for Halloween. Wait no- Pocahontas wasn't the only brown-skinned, black-haired princess- there was Jasmine. I guess I didn't count that one when I was little because Pocahontas was more recent and Jasmine wasn't the star of her movie, I don't know.
    I've been told by family and friends that I'm white because I don't speak or understand my parents' native language or know much of anything about our culture. I asked my mom to teach me but she just said that I should be able to pick it up by listening like my sister has but I haven't. Ohh… feeling sad now.

    • Hotaru-hime says:

      My family in India always ask how I can't speak my mother tongue and it's like "Well, I grew up around English speakers, what did you expect?". But my mother questions it sometimes and she and my dad never taught us, so it always makes me mad when people cast it up to me.

    • MelissaR says:

      As a teacher of foreign languages, picking a language up just by listening is not the norm. Even when learning a native tongue, some correction and instruction is necessary. Definitely don't feel down on yourself for not picking it up. Some people just have a natural ear for languages, but that is what's unusual. And see if you can take classes somewhere else!

  24. affableevil says:

    Semi-unrelated, but all this talk of relating to cartoon characters reminds me of how enraged I was over the casting of The Last Airbender. The white-washing of the main heroes was disgusting and saddening, and I still wonder how M. Night's daughter felt about the choice for Katara's actor. The only reason he even knew about the show was because she wanted to be Katara for Halloween. The water tribe is clearly based on Inuit culture, and the casting of Katara doesn't reflect that at all:

    It bothers me that Hollywood constantly does this to characters. It bothers me that they believe that, as a white woman, I won't be able to identify with a main cast that isn't Caucasian. It's insulting to everyone involved. It's racist, and it's wrong. And it's just one of the many things wrong with that damn movie. /raeg tangent

    ….On a more relevant note, your childhood stories continue to intrigue me. I'm glad you keep sharing them with us 🙂 And all the love to Rudy omfg.
    And I've had to edit this three times because the formatting keeps changing and getting fucked up. IDEK

    • Lindsey says:

      Similarly, the white actress Jennifer Lawrence was recently cast for the part of Katniss in the Hunger Games movie. I've heard she's a fantastic actress, but from Katniss's description I imagined her to be Native American or something. And I completely agree with you. I'm white, but that doesn't mean I can't relate to characters of a different race. Heck, Mulan is my favorite Disney "Princess" (she's not technically a princess, but I think she's put in that category).

      • erin says:

        High five! Mulan is my favorite, too. I think it's because she's the only one whose story isn't all about falling in love. Her relationship with that captain dude is just a minor subplot. I never had much patience for romance, even as a little girl.

        I've never seen anything with Jennifer Lawrence in it, but there's a statement from Suzanne Collins floating around the fansites saying how perfect she thought Jennifer was for the role, so I'm pretty excited. What does it matter if the actress was born looking the part, so long as she's the most talented option? That's what hair dye, makeup and movie magic are for!

        • Lindsey says:

          I saw Collins' statement on I'm sure she'll be great for the part, but it would've been nice to see someone that fit Katniss's description better. However, I'm not saying that Lawrence doesn't deserve the part. If she's the best actress, then by all means let her have the part.

        • Lawrence was nominated for an Oscar this year, and I've seen her in action. She's scary good, and I think she can convey the grit that Katniss has. I had hoped for an olive-skinned actress, but I'm not focusing on the blonde hair since I'm a hair colourist and know that turning hair a gorgeous dark brown isn't too difficult. Her eyes are close enough, since Katniss has grey eyes and blue is fairly close on the scale. (I have a few friends with eyes that turn grey)
          I had hoped for someone different, but if Collins is happy then I'll bow to her opinion. I wish I could have heard her describe Katniss a few times to learn what she pictured her like. Sometimes authors even have different pictures in their heads than they write on paper. I had really hoped for a girl who looked like she had some Native American in her background. That being said, I know a lot of people who look caucasian but have Native American in their family background.

        • Steeple says:

          Because there is a huge bias and tons of roles for white actors, and actors of color rarely get anything? I'd rather this be an opportunity for a woman of color to get a lead role (and yes, there are definitely poc who are talented!) than have another blonde white woman get "darkened" for a part. Instead of brownface (which Hollywood had a loooong history of doing, goddamn), gray contacts on a woc would be a better option, I think.

          So no, I'm tired of this argument for why a white person should play a potential brown role, AGAIN.

          • Kaz says:

            I don't have a problem with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. She is not at fault here, and I hate when people judge her for something that was out of her hands. Jennifer's an amazing actress (she's only twenty and Oscar nominated!), and I'm more than sure that she can handle the role. However, I do have a problem with how they went about casting this movie. I don't remember where I read it, but I know that in the casting call they explicitly stated Caucasian actresses only. I believe Hailee Steinfeld was the only actress in the running who wasn't 100% white. The vibe I got from The Hunger Games was that the world was largely beyond racism, and Katniss was more racially ambiguous. If they had opened casting to all races and Jennifer Lawrence still won the role, I would've been perfectly fine with it because there would have been a chance, and it would prove the studio was open to it. This could have been a huge chance for Hollywood to cast someone who is not white for once and they blew it.

    • affableevil says:

      …And apparently during all three edits I failed to change "actor" to "actress". Clearly midterms have killed my brain.

  25. Saber says:

    I'm sorry to say I couldn't remember who Price Erik was, and had to google it. Then I did a very loud *Facepalm* at my idiocy, because I love that movie.

  26. Sophie says:

    Reading about the Jesse Owens incident made me love Rudy even more than I already did, if possible.

    Also, totally off topic, but I used to have a huge crush on Aladdin. Is that weird?

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      No, that's totally normal.

    • So did I. I thought he was fantastic.

    • I also had a crush on Aladdin.

      *more embarrassing story* I used to stare at a picture of him in a book where he was in the dungeon with his hands tied above his head because it was the best view of his chest in the illustrations. It was seeing this picture when I was maybe 6 or 7 years and blushing that made me realise I had a crush on him. Also, I was possibly into bdsm as a kid? Hmmmmm

      Apparently I was shallow as well because my attraction was based firstly on his looks, and a bit on his cheeky scamp personality 😛

    • blessthechildren says:

      Love Disney men!

  27. Kate says:

    The actions (and inactions) of civilians in Germany both before and during the war are the subject of some fascinating studies, but are also the source of a lot of discomfort there, even now. I remember talking to an Austrian I met on exchange about it. She said her grandparents had told her that one day, all of the Jews and disabled people were just gone from their town, and that they didn't know the smokestacks down the river were a crematorium. My friend said that she just couldn't believe them – how could they not know what was going on? Can you imagine growing up in a society where, in addition to the normal problems that generational gaps bring, there are these feelings of suspicion and doubt even about your own family?

    That said, if you try and put yourself in their place, you can see how it could happen. To choose a topical example, say you live near a Latino neighbourhood, and the government decides to crack down on "illegal immigrants". They round everybody up and put out the story that they're being taken to detention centres to await deportation. Would you question it?

    The question isn't rhetorical – I'm interested in how you guys think you would react. I think I would question the policy, but I would likely believe that my democratically elected government were deporting people, not killing them, unless presented with some evidence to the contrary. I'm not saying that makes it ok. I just think it's important to consider the shades of grey.

  28. Being descended from people who were in the Nazi party (this is really hard for me to talk about) I can attest that a lot of people were terrified for their families. This is no excuse for what was allowed to happen, but I wonder now if our own nation would be very different if something like that started here.
    I feel physically ill thinking about it, because I can't wrap my mind around those choices a lot of Germans had to make. My Oma was a small child then, and I remember her talking about the poverty and misery of those days, and how she didn't understand that war, but she knew enough to understand that times were bad and that they'd get better if the Allies won. Ironically she would later marry an American G.I. and become a US citizen. I never had a chance to ask her more about the War since she died twelve years ago..

  29. Can I say that I think your dad is the man?

  30. lecielazteque says:

    I love your stories, Mark. They're heartbreaking and beautiful in their reality, especially because you've come so far in life and as a person. I must admit that your mother intrigues me because I find myself asking "why did she single him out?" and "Why one twin and not the other?" It also makes me sad that she felt the need to deny part of your identity because of her own prejudices. Your observations seemed to be an indication that were you were highly inquisitive and intelligent, at such a young age, it should have been encouraged, not punished. You've overcome all that, however, and now we have MarkWatches and MarkReads. I'm glad because we get to read all your awesome insights and you bring us awareness of things we might not consider otherwise. Thank you for sharing with us your life experiences.

    As to this section of the book, I like others really like the way Alex Steiner's inner dilemma is presented to us. It's a great way to show how there were so many shades of gray but I think that the itch in his heart is indicative that while he may not be the most horrible human being, he was not innocent either, because he KNOWS and can't really escape it, just ignore it. I'm excited for the rest of the book, because I think this idea/topic will come back for further consideration. 😀 And Rudy! I love Rudy, he's the most adorable thing and his innocence kills me ;]

  31. MelissaR says:

    Off-topic slightly, but for those of you interested in the lives of Germans during the Nazi era, I just read an amazing book which really opened my eyes in a whole new way to everyday life during the early Nazi years (and I have an MA in Germanics and lived in Germany for 3.5 years). It's called Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi by David Chotjewitz (translated from the German by Doris Orgel). An amazing book that left me contemplative for quite awhile. It's the story of a friendship between two boys at a Gymnasium (college-prep high school in Germany), and how insidiously the Nazi culture took over life there. I highly recommend it.

  32. Lady X says:

    @ !#%$*!@#% straight you haven’t done a story in awhile!!! More soon please! <3 <3 <3

  33. ldwy says:

    Um, me too, but I told everyone about wanting to be a mermaid. My grandparents lived near the ocean and we used to go stay with them in the summer, and my sister and I would go swimming, for literally about 3 hours at a time, and just swim and splash around, pretending to be mermaids and dolphins. I always used to go under for as long as I could and fluff my hair, trying to get it to "float" underwater around my head like Ariel's, and have my sister look under water and see if it was working. It never quite did. 🙁 But they were good summers.

    • Lindsey says:

      🙂 I never actually told anybody I wanted to be a mermaid, but my two cousins that were close to my age and I used to pretend to be mermaids in the pool. I would let my hair down and let it float around me, and when it was dark outside the pool light made it look kind of reddish. I have really thick curlyish hair, so it worked pretty well.:) We always swam with our legs together, and it got kind of tiring. Darn, I miss that. It was fun.

    • Hm, I wanted to be a dolphin or a faerie.

  34. maggie says:

    Mark, I'm so sorry. So sorry. For your mother to do that to you- that's sickening. I can't relate personally, but the adoptive mother of one of my best friends told my friend that she would be a slut because she (my friend) was sexually assaulted as a child. Some people are just foul. But your story made me think of that woman, and made me all the more angry.
    And someone here said you should be a writer, and I completely agree. You can really tell a story.
    I can't think of anything to say about the book after that. Just… wow. Powerful stuff from you there.

  35. This is just what I was thinking (about Mark's writing style) and if he were to ever turn his life into a novel I beleive it would be poignant and heart-wrenching and I'd totally read it. When I was a kid I didn't want to be any of the princesses in particular, or a mermaid, but I did used to imagine I was the queen of the waves when I went to the beach. I had a very active imagination as a kid and existed in my own created world to which reality was a pale shadow. This was why I loved reading – so much imagination fuel.

  36. pennylane27 says:

    Mark, reading your childhood stories breaks my heart a little and fills me with hope because we know you turned out ok. It makes me feel extremely lucky I was born and raised in a loving and supportive family. I can't really relate to all those terrible stories because I have a pretty privileged life. I am a white, middle-class straight average girl. I never experienced discrimination or abuse from anyone. I was teased at school for liking to read (what?) but nothing serious. It makes me wonder how I turned out so tolerant and open-minded. I guess I have to thank my parents for that. This is going to sound privileged, but it really gets to me when I hear these kind of stories, not because I feel sorry for the victims (which I do) but because I can't understand why would a person treat another in such a terrible way just because they are different. I feel so outraged when I think about the horrible stuff we can do to one another because we feel superior or whatever. I hate hate.

    Does any of that make sense?

    Now that I got that off my chest, AMAZING CHAPTER AND REVIEW. I'm so glad I'm reading this book.

  37. When I was a kid I didn't want to be any of the Disney characters in particular but I thought Pocahontas was really beautiful and I wanted to look like her. Out of all the princesses she'd be the most opposite in looks to me, especially when I was a kid and I still had platinum blonde hair. Plus I'm Australian and I'd never seen a Native American woman – even a picture – before. She captivated me.

    I can't imagine what would be like to be so confused about who you are though – as a child too. I never had any cause to question my race/identity in any way close to what you did. I've just gone through my "discovering my own style journey" at the end of my teen years but that's hardly comparable and to have the kind of confusion you described as a kid and not have anyone to discuss it with must have been really hard. *HUG*

  38. notemily says:

    Oh Mark, I love you more than Rose loves drugs. You keep breaking my heart with these stories.

    Trufax: I wanted to marry Aladdin the first time I saw the movie. I had never liked a Disney hero like that before. Prince Eric was kinda boring to me–I wanted to BE Ariel (WHO DIDN'T AMIRITE), but I didn't want to be WITH Prince Eric. And the princes in Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty were kind of personality-less. (Don't even get me started on that weird-looking dude the Beast turned into.) But Aladdin was cute and funny and smart and had a nice voice (that voice!) and I crushed on him HARD. Since I was nine years old at the time, of course this meant that I wanted to marry him, because when you're nine years old that's what liking someone means. I actually started tearing up as I walked out of the theater because I realized he wasn't real and I never would be able to marry him. I was too embarrassed to tell my mom why I was so sad.

    Anyway. That story seems extremely trivial after what you have shared in this post. How awful that your mother assumed that identifying as non-white meant you were "expecting handouts." I've been following your tumblr and the conversations about race and education show that people still think that, and it pisses me off and makes me sad.

    I wish I could go back and give Tiny Mark all the hugs. My parents got down on me for not being "good" enough either, not performing well enough in school and not behaving the way they'd like, and I ended up internalizing those negative messages as well. I can't imagine how long it must have taken you to break down the limits and barriers that your mom created in your mind. Kids are at such a disadvantage because if you have parents like that, they bring you down all the time, and even if there is another authority figure around to contradict the messages they're giving you, how can they possibly compete with the constant presence of your parents?

  39. elaeye says:

    Hi Mark (eternal lurker here since Catching Fire – hi)

    Thank you for sharing your story with us – you have a way with writing which really does grip the reader, and it feels even more amazing (for lack of better word) because it's real. I'm sorry you had to go through all those experiences…I hope you have found some closure, so peace or will do so in the course of your reading this book or just life in general 🙂

    Reading about your experience here, though, I wonder if reading 'The Messenger' (also by Marcus Zusak) could be a book you will consider reading (perhaps in Mark Reads – though I am ecstatic for you to begin the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld after the Book Thief if the suggestions list is correct – or perhaps just in your own time and at a faster pace. I feel like you will identify with it – even for me, it felt very cathartic – and it is an absolutely gorgeous book to read in general.

    But yeah…surfacing briefly from the anonymity of the internet to thank you for your reviews – they are a daily joy and sometimes thought provoking thing to read – and squeal over the next few items on your reading list – Westerfeld and Pullman – because they are among my favourite authors EVER – from years back when I was 13-14

    I'm so glad you're enjoying the Book Thief, in all its sadface inducing glory.

  40. Prinkle says:

    I don’t know if this has already been mentioned (there’s an awful to read in the comments) but Jesse Owens actually said afterwards ‘When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing the man of the hour in Germany.’ and ‘Hitler didn’t snub me—it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.’

  41. Cassie says:

    My parents were both from Jewish families that had emigrated from Holland to South Africa. My parents left South Africa to come to the UK in the early eighties because they were afraid themselves, even as whites, of how terrible and horrific the political system was and they feared an outright and brutal civil war.

    I often asked them when I was an obnoxious and non-empathetic teenager why they or their parents never tried to do anything massive to help the situation, why, if they believed in equality didn’t they try to help? Eventually my father shamefully told me that their families had been through so much being Jewish, his parents had escaped from occupied Amsterdam and had seen nearly all their cousins and friends taken away, they had been persecuted so much that it was almost a small, unspoken and shameful relief to get somewhere that didn’t care that they were Jewish because they too busy persecuting someone else for a change. (That is also why I was raised an atheist. Aside from my parents having no faith in any God themselves, they did not want a religion to make me stand out as a target.)

    I know my parents are not racist and I know my grandparents “acceptance” of Apartheid was not based on racism either. It was better for them, their present that they had fought for, their families and their futures to not speak or act out. And yet, I think all my grandparents felt the guilt until the day they died because, after all, they knew that their own history of persecution was aided by people, just like them when faced with Apartheid, that didn’t want to do anything to draw attention to themselves and just wanted their own families to be safe. Which is brutally and sadly understandable.

  42. blessthechildren says:

    Mark, your stories are so thought provoking. You always leave me wanting to know more. How old were you when you finally got any information about your birth parentage? Great post!

  43. blessthechildren says:

    Okay, found a fanart where Prince Eric looks like Finnick from HG. Love

    <img src=""&gt;

  44. Pingback: Mark Watches ‘Sherlock’: S01E02 – The Blind Banker | Mark Watches

  45. Lorie says:

    Out of the frying pan and into the fire

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