Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Gray, came to Salt Lake on April 12. I absolutely loved this book (see my review here), and felt like it was such an important story, that I dragged along Enna Isilee and Kami with me.
And, I’m so glad that I went! Ruta talked a little about how she got into writing, and it was very unconventional. She worked in the film industry, and was inspired to write Between Shades of Gray after learning about the history of her grandfather’s family on a visit to Lithuania. She discovered that after her grandfather immigrated to America, many of her relatives in Lithuania were either killed or sent to labor camps during the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states.
Ruta did research through interviews, and even spent some time in a reenactment in a former Soviet prison. The experiences that she had really shaped the tone of the book.
The character of Lena was an artist because members of her family were artists. Also, the prisoners in these camps often used songs and art to convey messages to other prisoners. They even used them as a way to get news of family members in other camps. Because the Soviet’s couldn’t speak their language, they were able to get information through their songs and artwork.
Ruta is working on a new book on a piece of history that is even less well-known than the Soviet occupation. It is based on the sinking of the Gustloff in 1945. I did some research on this event after I went home from the event and I was horrified. I really can’t wait to read Ruta’s novel.
Meeting Ruta was such a pleasure! If you haven’t read Between Shades of Gray, I highly recommend it. It will shed some light on a piece of history that definitely should not be forgotten. I would also recommend watching the trailer that she made for her book. Thanks for coming to Salt Lake, Ruta! And thanks to The King’s English for hosting!