Book Title: Keeping My Hope
Author: Christopher Huh
Date Published: February 18, 2013
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; First Edition edition
Genre: 1. Historical & Biographical Fiction
2. Children’s Books
ISBN: 978-1479348831
Reviewer: Arielle Blackburn
Review Date: May 13, 2013

Several moments ago I read a profound, illustrated narrative that captures Holocaust history with fresh eyes and emotion. The story’s depth and the subject matter’s intensity are especially impressive because this 170-page graphic novel was entirely penned—word and drawing—by a Maryland middle schooler, Korean-American Christopher Huh. Huh sent Jews for Jesus a copy of his book. It was my privilege to read and review it here.

Huh’s personal investigation into the world of eastern European Jewish life proves powerful and poignant. His entry point into the subject: Huh was outraged that his classmates dismissed their Holocaust learning with as little interest as the next tedious topic. He was shaken. Pooling his creative writing prowess and much dedicated research, the then seventh grader undertook Keeping My Hope.

In Christopher Huh’s work, Ari, a wise, old and living survivor of Auschwitz retells his history to an eager granddaughter, a listener with whom the reader easily identifies. Huh delicately interlaces scenarios where the reader vicariously feels Ari’s pain and the severity of his escapades. They are laid against a stark, contemporary setting. For example, Huh juxtaposes a family barbeque setting with Ari and his captive audience-of-one revisiting his tales of famishment. Often aromas and essences of what officers ate waft in toward the starving captives of Ari’s past. This is the kind of detail and suffering few writers as young as Huh could be expected to detail. As a young teenager, he shows all the potential of an excellent storyteller. Most importantly, he understands that his book’s subject matter has broad application, extending beyond the plight of one particular people group.

Not unlike our author, Ari’s innocence as a young boy is captivating and challenging throughout Keeping My Hope. Ari is selfless, stubborn, and sacrificial. We see his pure heartedness against a backdrop of others’ hatred and prejudice. We journey with him through his town’s descent from home sweet home into a hell. Eventually Ari is plucked from it, only to be pushed through Auschwitz’s jaws. The reader is perpetually drawn along with Ari on this journey from fear to freedom.

If I have one criticism of the piece, it would be the same to my eighth grade self, who likewise wrote Holocaust-based fiction: Auschwitz is obvious. There were hundreds of camps, and any one of them could have been picked as the setting. Additionally, an Auschwitz survivor is much less realistic than one from another camp. But perhaps that is part of the beauty of the naïveté of being thirteen and of keeping up hope, of using as iconic a site as possible. I highly recommend this gripping graphic novel to those of all ages who are open to both heartbreak and healing, all at the hands of an American teenager who truly empathized with the suffering of a people not his own.

To find out more about Christopher, his graphic novel, and where to purchase it, please visit keepingmyhope.com.