Why "The Lost Letter" Author Jillian Cantor Is Inspired, Not Horrified, By "The Handmaid's Tale"
In the months since Donald Trump has become president, more and more people have become inspired to join the Resistance — whether that means volunteering, campaigning, donating, making calls, educating themselves and others on the issues, or otherwise. Bustle's 31 Days of Reading Resistance takes a look at the role of literature and writing in the Resistance, both as a source of inspiration and as a tool for action.
Jillian Cantor has long been writing about resistance. With her novels from The Hours Count, which imagines the infamous neighbor of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg fighting for what she believes in, to Margot, which is a reimagining of the life of Anne Frank's older sister Margot, she has been spreading messages of hope and resilience to her readers since her first novel was published in 2009. Now, she has a brand new novel out — and this one sounds like the most powerful of them all.
The Lost Letter, which came out this summer, was inspired by Cantor's visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The moving resistance exhibit encouraged Cantor to write a story based in Austria in the late 1930s, about a stamp engraver and the Jewish woman he loves. Together, the two lovers become involved in the underground resistance against the Nazis. Cantor tells Bustle, "What interests me most about the resistance in WWII, and resistance in general, is how these acts can be large or small, and how they are most often done by ordinary people in extraordinary times."
Cantor has recommended her four favorite books about resistance that will motivate readers to stand up and fight for what they believe in.
Jillian Cantor says: "Anne Frank came of age while hiding from the Nazis and died in a concentration camp during World War II. But her diary about life in the annex and being a regular teenage girl, and her unshakable faith in humanity (“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart”), reminds me that writing – and reading the stories of others – can be one of the greatest acts of resistance."
Jillian Cantor says: "I’m reading this book now, about the American ambassador to Germany and his family, living in Berlin in 1933. What strikes me is how so much of daily life appeared normal, even as Hitler had already come to power and many things had begun to change. No one quite believed or fathomed how bad things would eventually get. A story that shows how resistance is always necessary."
Jillian Cantor says: "This has been my favorite novel (and the story that has haunted me most) since I read it in college. What stuck with me, many years after reading it, was how even in the direst of circumstances small acts of resistance still mean something and can make a difference."
Jillian Cantor says: "Inspired by the author’s grandfather and his siblings, this novel shows one extended family’s struggle to survive during WWII. Ultimately hopeful, it’s a story filled with so much resistance by characters who will go to any lengths to save the people they love."
Follow along all month long for more Reading Resistance book recommendations.