Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Between Shades of Gray" {by Ruta Sepetys} Book Club Ideas

Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys
Ruta Sepetys began writing this book when she went to visit her relatives in Lithuania and asked if they had any pictures of her father or grandfather. They said they had to burn all of them. They couldn’t let anyone know they were related to her grandfather who was a Lieutenant in the military. This peaked her interest and she started her research.

Between Shades of Gray Decorations
Brooke made a jar full of old yellowing letters and drawings to represent the jar Lina buried with her sketches.
(To learn how to age paper click HERE)

She also made her own "Dombey and Son" book by Charles Dickens similar to the one Andrius gave to Lina. You can download the book cover for yourself HERE.

We also had:
 - Large globe
-Old suitcases
-Russian nicknacks
 -An owl (haha)
-And a pocket watch.

Between Shades of Gray Menu

Between Shades of Gray Decorations

We had a delicious Lithuanian inspired menu:
Between Shades of Gray Menu
Want to make your own DELICIOUS Beet Salad?
Then try our recipe!

Between Shades of Gray Menu

Between Shades of Gray Menu

Between Shades of Gray Menu


Below are a few of the slides from Brooke's WONDERFUL Power Point on the book.
Download the Power Point presentation for your book club HERE!

Brooke started off her presentation by asking this question. She asked us to stand up if we or our  husband or children belonged to one of the following groups to see if we would have been considered Anti-Soviet.

  *Military personnel
  *Business Owner
  *Military Officer
  *Office Worker
  *Citizen of a foreign state
  *Red Cross
  *College Students

By the end, at least 3/4 of our group was standing.

The cattle cars that these people were packed into were impossibly small.
Brooke looked online to find the dimensions of the cars they were stuffed into for 6 WEEKS. While the information was sparse on the cattle cars deporting specifically the Lithuanians, she found the dimensions for the cars used in the Holocaust.
Reducing the size of the cars to proportionally fit 15 of us, she taped out a rectangle on the floor.
Brooke then had everyone stand in the middle.

We ended up only have 11 people that night, so we had even more room then she planned on. The dimensions came out to be about 8 feet by 4 feet 4 inches. That was if there were about 50 people in a car. From the information gathered on several sites, it indicated that many times they packed up to 100 people in a car. As you can see in the picture, we were very tight in the larger rectangle. I then had us try to squeeze into the smaller rectangle, representing if there were 100 people on the train. 15 of us would have been smashed together in a 4 ft by 1 foot & 4 inches space.

It's unimaginable
The 11 of us stood in that little rectangle for all of a couple minutes before everyone started to get uncomfortable, claustrophobic and needing their space! It's impossible to imagine having to stand in that tight of a space for 6+ weeks in the conditions they endured with no showers, bathroom and hardly any food or water.

Brooke had one more activity planned.

Brooke hid an X under one of our chairs before we came to book club. Shalease happened to be sitting on the winning chair so she was the "lucky" one. Brooke said that she represented a leader in the NKVD and she had been chosen to help with translating. (This reference to translating did not always mean just translating). Brooke then told Shalease that if she agreed to help her that she and her family would receive additional food (the reference to "additional food" makes it sound like they were already getting enough food, but they were not- only 3 grams of bread a day). If she did NOT agree, someone else in the group needed to volunteer to take her place.
Shalease is pregnant, so Brooke told her that she needed to think about not only herself, but the life of her child (For many of us, our decisions changed based on if we were just choosing for ourselves or for the lives of our children as well). If she chose to comply with Brooke she was told that she would be looked down on by the rest of the group as a traitor. 
It's an impossible situation to be put in and Shalease wasn't sure what she should choose. She went back and forth with lots of pressure on her, lots of opinions flying around. When Brooke reiterated that if she didn't do it, someone else in the group would have to take her place.
She decided she would cooperate. 
Brooke then congratulated her on her choice and gave her the give-a-way gift of the evening.
(Shown in the picture above.)
Of course it completely unfair, which was Brooke's intention and made all of us think,
"What would I do in that situation?"
What would YOU do?
Many of the people that cooperated with the NKVD were rewarded with food, clothing, shelter or other items but suffered a heavy price in other ways. They felt abandoned by their friends, used by the NKVD and stripped of their dignity.
Brooke did a stunning job illustrating how it would feel, both as the person receiving the "gifts," and also how it would feel to be the people watching another be rewarded for her choice.
Which to them, felt like a betrayal.
As we closed the meeting, Brooke passed around this small pail of chocolates with her favorite quote from the book.
 "We'd been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean."

Thank you Brooke for a truly memorable book club that none of us will soon forget.


brittaniemarie said...

What a fun night! Thanks to all who worked so hard to make it memorable.

Karen said...

This was a fabulous evening with a very in-depth presentation of the book. I enjoyed all the tangible items that really brought the story to life and gave us insight into how the characters might have felt. Thanks Brooke, for helping us to visualize it all.

Kelly, thanks for allowing us to use your home for our enjoyment and the food and pictures are great as always!

Kellie H said...

That was the best beet salad ever. I want the recipe!!!

Kellie H said...

The recipe doesn't say how to roast the beets. I'm not a cook I need details.

Leslie Roberts Clingan said...

Hello! I just came across your post after selecting and reading Between Shades of Gray with my virtual book club. What a wonderful evening your group had after reading this novel. Will be sharing your permalink with my group. Thank you for the inspirational ideas, photos, recipes, activities.


LibraryLady said...

Thank you so much for sharing your activities for Between Shades of Gray. It will be our first book this month in my high school book club. I will incorporate many of your wonderful ideas, activities, and information.

Andriana said...
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