It's My Whole Life: Charlotte Salomon: An Artist in Hiding During World War II (Hardcover)
Winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Young Adult Literature
A gripping middle grade biography of Charlotte Salomon, and an ode to how art can capture both life’s everyday beauty and its monumental horrors.
"It’s my whole life" are the words Charlotte Salomon is said to have used to describe a series of thirteen hundred paintings she created between 1940 and 1942 while in hiding from the Nazis. The paintings are an extraordinary, vivid document: saturated in the sunlit colors of the Mediterranean; full of powerfully expressed love, anxiety, joy, and despair; and arranged as a sequential narrative overlayed with painted words, like a graphic novel. The story they tell is one of a prosperous childhood in prewar Berlin, of fleeing from the Nazi regime after Kristallnacht, and of going into hiding in southern France. There, as the war closed in, Charlotte Salomon painted feverishly, documenting her life and the often troubled lives of her family, her escape to and existence in France, and her struggle to come to terms with the darkness falling around her. When Germany took control of the region, she packed up the paintings and gave them to a friend for safekeeping. Shortly afterward, she was betrayed and deported to Auschwitz, where she was murdered.
Charlotte Salomon’s painted memoir has been compared to Anne Frank’s universally famous work as a visual analog to Anne’s diary. It tells a compelling story—not only of the war and the Holocaust, but of a passionate, creative young woman hungering for a place in the world and the ability to express herself. In It’s My Whole Life, Susan Wider charts Charlotte’s life and illuminates her work in a distinctive first biography for young readers.
About the Author
A graduate of The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and of the University of New Mexico, Susan Wider has written for Orion, THE Magazine, The Fourth River, and Wild Hope magazine, among others. Before becoming a full-time writer, she held senior management positions at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, The Santa Fe Institute, and the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. Earlier in her career she taught American English for the French Chamber of Commerce in Normandy, France and worked as a violinist in several professional chamber and symphony orchestras. It's My Whole Life is her first book. She lives outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.
[A] well-researched biography of German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon… allowing not only for analysis of her art but also for an intimate focus on particular moments in her life.
— Horn Book Magazine
A uniquely artistic interpretation of, and profound insight into, pivotal moments in Salomon’s life.... Wider effortlessly blends vibrant art and little-known history for a winning visual read.
— Publishers Weekly