Title: Chasing the American Dream
Author: Lorelei Brush
Publisher: Mascot Books
Publish Date: February 2, 2021 (Today!!!)
What's the Story?:
Description: "Chasing the American Dream captures the quest of one man—David Svehla—for justice against those whom he knew to have committed crimes against humanity during World War II. To his horror, his mission transforms into a fight with the U.S. Government which threatens his own American Dream. A central theme of the book is the question of when the government is justified in suppressing information from the public and when it has a moral responsibility to release the information. Think: the coronavirus, the Patriot Act, and back after the World War II, the bringing of over 1,000 Nazi scientists to the U.S. when they were known to have supervised labor camps."
My Two Cents:
When "Chasing the American Dream" opens, World War II and ending and David is part of an elite unit fighting to evacuate and close a gruesome Nazi camp that used forced labor to build rockets for the Axis Forces side of the war. David is fully committed to doing what is right and believes that the bad will be punished. Fast forward ten years later, David is still very much haunted by what he witnessed in Europe and so he is especially shocked to see someone from his past that he very much believed got what was coming to him long ago. He sees a brutal Nazi from the camps simply riding the bus in Ohio as if none of the terrible things he did mattered just 10 years later. This is a story about how even noble acts can be interpreted incorrectly if the acts don't suit a particular narrative favored at the time.
I have read plenty of World War II books and definitely many about the atrocities that the Allied Forces uncovered when they were liberating the various occupied places. This book gives you a glimpse of that but what really makes this book interesting is how it covers the period 10 years later when the United States is now dealing with other crises: the Red Scare and the Cold War. David's frame of reference is very much informed by the world he experienced ten years prior where all Nazis were to be punished to fit their crimes. It was interesting to see how he grappled with how what he felt was truly fair and just becomes up for debate as the United States focuses on fighting the Cold War.
I was a little familiar with "Operation: Paperclip" before this book but this book really brought it to life for me. In the 1950s, countering the Soviet Union and engaging in things like the Space Race becomes so important to the U.S. government that they will do whatever it takes to win, including bringing Nazi scientists (enemies of the previous war) to the United States without punishment in order to gain an advantage over the Soviets, no matter how morally murky it makes things. This book does a great job of showing how such a big shift in policy, culture, and beliefs could happen in a relatively small amount of time.
The detail in the book was really wonderful and it is clear how much effort the author put into creating David's world, both in Europe and at home. I loved reading about these events that I did not really know that much about as the shame of giving into quick wins over the Soviet and even the Red Scare itself are a blight in American history and are not often talked about.
They say that those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it. This book made me think of other times throughout history where right and wrong are blurred and bent in order to pursue a particular goal without caring about the context or what the ramifications are. The best books are those that make you ponder things long after you close the book. This is one of those!