Review of It’s My Whole Life: Charlotte Salomon: An Artist in Hiding During World War II

It’s My Whole Life: Charlotte Salomon: An Artist in Hiding During World War II It’s My Whole Life: Charlotte Salomon: An Artist in Hiding During World War II
by Susan Wider
High School    Norton    160 pp.   g
8/22    978-1-324-01545-1    $19.95

This well-researched biography of German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon (1917–1943) constructs many of its episodes around her autobiographical paintings, allowing not only for analysis of her art but also for an intimate focus on particular moments in her life. That life was a difficult and complicated one, and Wider is frank about Salomon’s intense relationships and obsession with her family’s history of suicide, as well as her alleged poisoning of her grandfather (the book is inconclusive as to her motivations: assisted suicide, or escape from his abuse?). The specter of the Holocaust looms large over Salomon’s story: she created her Life? or Theater? series of paintings while in hiding, and was eventually captured and killed in the gas chamber. Two closing chapters focus on her legacy. Black-and-white photos are interspersed throughout the narrative, as are reproductions of Salomon’s colorful and often melancholic paintings. Back matter includes a family tree, a map, a timeline, source notes, a bibliography, and an index (unseen).

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees.

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