Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Walking and Talking with . . . Ruta Sepetys

In 2011 I traveled to Bologna in the spring to attend the largest children’s rights fair in the world. While there, I was able to meet and speak with a number of other Americans. And though my concentration has always been children’s books rather than YA, I had just the nicest conversation with Ruta Sepetys. She’d just come out with Between Shades of Gray and since the featured country at the fair that year was Lithuania, her presence made a lot of sense.

Today, Steve Sheinkin continues his “Walking and Talking” series in which he interviews different luminaries in the field of children’s literature. Today’s discussion concerns the similarities and differences between researching a work of historical fiction verses nonfiction.


Thanks, Steve! Thanks, Ruta!

And don’t forget to catch up with the whole series:

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. First, I want to say that I am a big fan of Steve Sheinkin’s outstanding body of work. I have not read Ruta Sepetys’s new novel about the Spanish Civil War. I feel compelled, due to all the attention it is currently receiving, to point out that her previous YA works based on her interpretation of Lithuanian history are gross distortions. They are premised on the idea that the Baltic peoples were victims of “genocide” by the Soviets, and, most seriously, they completely ignore the reality of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Almost 95 percent of that country’s Jews were killed, but not only by the Nazis. In fact, it is well-established fact that many were killed by Lithuanian collaborators. The Jews were not principally deported to camps, but were shot in the streets by their neighbors. Of course, it is true that the peoples of Eastern Europe suffered under the Soviets, but it is a dangerous assault on the memory of the Holocaust’s victims to fail to present the truth about their annihilation. Centuries of antisemitism in Lithuania long predated the German invasion, making it easy for the Nazis to find support for the Final Solution in one of the greatest centers of Jewish culture in the world. One more point. When I researched reviews of Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray, I found one by Linda Sue Park in the New York Times. Park, one of the most central proponents of the “We Need Diverse Books” movement, wrote the following: “Readers also discover the extent of the tragedy. They witness the Soviet invasion of the Baltic States, with the subsequent murder of millions and the displacement of millions more. And they learn that many survivors were forced into the impossible position of supporting Hitler, compelled by their fear and hatred of Stalin. ” Imagine that statement with a different group as the subject. Imagine alleging that white southerners were “forced” to support the Confederacy because bad Yankees were threatening their way of life by ending slavery. It would be unthinkable, outside of the right-wing circles where such a belief would still be commonly upheld. As time passes and there are fewer survivors to tell their story, it is unconscionable to allow this type of falsehood to be the subject of uncritical support.