Book: The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

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The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

Author: Peter Sís
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

“I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side—the Communist side—of the Iron Curtain.”

Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ’n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities—creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.

By joining memory and history, Sís takes us on his extraordinary journey: from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art.


Barnes and Noble

Peter Sís has already won the New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year award six times, but The Wall might be his most riveting—and personal—book yet. With words and unforgettable pictures, he renders the experience of growing up in postwar, Communist-dominated Czechoslovakia. Like the omnipresent statues of Stalin, oppressive authority and regimentation loom everywhere. But eventually the Iron Curtain wears thin, allowing Sís to at least sample the exotic pleasures of Western literature, rock music, and pop culture. With the “Prague Spring” of 1968 comes the promise of new freedoms, but those short-lived hopes are crushed in the streets of the Czech capital by Soviet tanks. Fortunately, dreams cannot be annihilated so easily.

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