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Dear Ruta Sepetys

Diran Tan
White Station Middle School
7th - 8th Grade

Dear Mrs. Ruta Sepetys,

When discussing World War II, the topic of the Holocaust and Hitler always comes up. However, no one has ever talked about the mistreatment of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union. No one has ever talked about Stalin being just as cruel as Hitler, and since the Soviet Union was an ally to the U.S. during the war, this topic has become a sort of taboo. As you call it, the Baltic States and their fight against Stalin has become the “forgotten story.” Reading Between Shades of Gray has empowered me to tell others, and for the forgotten to be remembered.

I distinctly remember reading Between Shades of Gray in the fourth grade. I was reading the section “Ice and Ashes,” and I was amazed at how cruel Stalin was. The treatment of the people in the Baltic States was like how Hitler treated the Jews. At the time, I only heard about Stalin helping the Allies defeat Germany. I had thought that since the Soviet Union was an Ally, then they were the “good guys.” Reading Between Shades of Gray exposed Stalin to me as who he was for the first time. This surprised me, because I was taught that the history books and facts were always right, that being a “good guy” was black and white. You either were one, or you weren’t one.

I continued to research this topic, the idea that such a historical crisis had gone unnoticed by the Allies. However, it must be impossible to suppress such a huge event involving about 10 million people dead and a few survivors. How Stalin could gloss over such brutal a fact was beyond imagination for me. The only way to cover this would be to manipulate the facts until they were as twisted as the man behind them.

I noticed that history is written by the winners. An African proverb states, “Until the Story of the hunt is told by the Lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” The Allies had smoothed over the fact that Stalin had mistreated so many people during his rule because the U.S.S.R. was an Ally. I used to always think that what I learned or heard about was true if it came from a reliable source, really, you have to know both sides. Because in history, there is no “good guy.” There is just a winner and a loser. And the winner will always write history.

Four years later, I remember why your book touched my heart. Your book Between Shades of Gray showed me an important aspect of the world, that there are two sides to every coin. In order to see the whole picture, you need to know both sides, because each side is different. Every few years I reread your book to remind me of the whole picture, to stay aware. Thanks to your book, I’ve become more cautious when dealing with issues and intuitive when asked to take sides. Because if you are on the wrong side, your story will be forgotten.                                               



Diran Tan