Janet Skeslien Charles is the award-winning author of THE PARIS LIBRARY, which was selected as a #1 Indie Next Pick by independent booksellers. Janet’s first novel, MOONLIGHT IN ODESSA, was translated into twelve languages. She has been in Paris since March 2020 and loves talking to friends, family, and book clubs on Zoom. Visit her at jskesliencharles.com.
Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, The Paris Library is a tale of friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together. When I worked at the American Library in Paris, coworkers told me about the international team of librarians who defied the Nazis in order to hand deliver books to Jewish readers. The librarians resisted with the only weapons they had: books. It was a dangerous mission—a librarian was shot by the gestapo. I knew this story was a novel and sat down to write it.
I can’t help but think of the parallels between life now and the situation in The Paris Library. Before the war, in the summer of 1939, librarians, like all Parisians, carried gas masks. People pasted brown strips of paper on the windows as protection against shattered glass in case of bombing and brought in pails of dirt to put out possible fires. Today, we are wearing a different kind of mask, and once again, we are afraid for our loved ones. Then and now, anxiety is in the air because we don’t know what will happen. We only know that life has changed.
In these perilous times, I am even more in awe of the brave librarians. I would like to share a few books whose common theme is everyday courage.