West Orange middle schoolers hear from Liza Wiemer on Holocaust Remembrance Day

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Students at Liberty and Roosevelt Middle Schools recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 6 with a visit from Liza Wiemer, author of “The Assignment,” which is based on a true story. 

Wiemer’s website describes the book: “Senior Year. When an assignment given by a favorite teacher instructs a group of students to argue for the Final Solution, a euphemism used to describe the Nazi plan for the genocide of the Jewish people, Logan March and Cade Crawford are horrified. Their teacher cannot seriously expect anyone to complete an assignment that fuels intolerance and discrimination. Logan and Cade decide they must take a stand. As the school administration addresses the teens’ refusal to participate in the appalling debate, the student body, their parents and the larger community are forced to face the issue as well. The situation explodes, and acrimony and anger result. What does it take for tolerance, justice and love to prevail?”

Wiemer arrived at Roosevelt first, where she enjoyed a bagel breakfast with a select number of students who were able to talk to her about her work and how they relate to the story. She spoke about how she hadn’t even intended on writing another book, as she had just experienced about 60 rejects for her last novel.

As Wiemer was heading to a bookstore in Oswego, N.Y., she learned of the assignment at the high school that the town was fighting over and met one of the teens responsible for ultimately changing the way the history lesson was taught. Months of research followed and “The Assignment,” an emotionally charged telling of the debate, resulted. Wiemer remains committed to telling the story of the Holocaust and connecting young people to its truths in relatable ways.

“Liza was a wonderful author to have at Roosevelt,” RMS library media specialist Meara Franowicz. “After her presentation, she held a book signing and spoke to each child individually, making it a personal and meaningful experience for them.”

Wiemer then traveled to Liberty Middle School for a schoolwide assembly, followed by a writers workshop with selected students. The message to students encouraged them to be “allies and upstanders” in different situations that may require them to make choices to help others. 

“Liza was wonderful with our students,” LMS library media specialist Lisa Touzeau said. “She spent time speaking with each one. She offered so many different ways for them to deal with conflict and really be able to stand up for one another.”

Photos Courtesy of WOSD