Title: Rumors of Peace
Author: Ella Leffland
Edition: Perennial Library, 1985 (first published in 1979 by Harper & Row)
Setting: WWII era small, industrial town east of San Francisco, CA
Genre: Coming of age story
Suse Hansen is a 10 year old tomboy, living a life of school, home, and family in her small, working class town east of San Francisco when WWII suddenly intrudes into her life in the form of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This powerful, beautifully written novel describes her moral growth from the 10 year old whose first prayer is that the sherrif shoot the Nisei citizens of her town to 14 year old who understands so much more about the nature of war and the nature of human beings by the time the US drops two atomic bombs on Japan. The bloodthirstiness (and fear) of her youth has grown into a deeper understanding of what drives people to fear and revenge, hate, war, and love.
Lest this all sound depressing or boring, be assured it is neither. Like many adolescents, Suse’s view of her world: her friends, her teachers, her parents is extremely funny at times. And the instinctual goodness of her nature makes her question and question again how she feels about the war. She is helped in that questioning by Helen Maria, the genius older sister of her friend Peggy, and the example set by her loving, hard-working parents.
The book is filled with wonderful, vivid characters: Helena Maria and Peggy, Suse’s sort-of friend Valerie, classmate Dumb Donny (who’s not so dumb at all), good-time girl Eudene, and assorted teachers and parents.
Don’t miss this neglected classic.