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Disguised: A Wartime Memoir by Rita De…
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Disguised: A Wartime Memoir

by Rita De Clercq Zubli

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This was a fascinating memoir about a part of WW2 that I'd never even HEARD about. To live from the ages of 12-15 disguised as a boy, working with your captors, being entrusted to the things she was privy too, & to still try to provide for her family, that took amazing dedication. I was impressed! ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 10, 2014 |
This book is about how the japanese invaded her home. It's an autobiography of the 3 years of her life. Her parents disguise her as a man. Talks about what it was like to be a boy.
  DF1A_TravishaR | Sep 3, 2009 |
The memoir of a Dutch-Indonesian girl during the Japanese invasion of her home. Her family decides that 14 year old Rita would be safer as a boy, so, for four years, Rita becomes Rick and rises to the top wherever she is planted. ( )
  dbanna | Sep 9, 2008 |
Grade Levels: 6-9 Category: Realistic Fiction

Read Alouds: pp. 19-31 (disguise as boy); 71-83 (rat soup); 131-136 (job); 197-212 (camp interpreter); 289-301 (new camp); 346-359 (end of war)

Summary: When the Japanese invade Sumatra in 1942, twelve year old Rita is forced to change her identity to Rick, so that she will not be abused by the Japanese soldiers. For the next three years, she lives and works prison camps. As, “Rick” she learns Japanese and becomes invaluable to her captors as their clerk and interpreter. She is also an important voice and representative of her people during their ordeal.

Themes: This memoir, despite its depressing subject matter, is full of hope and optimism. Rita (aka Rick) is put in situation after situation and emerges stronger each time. She earns the respect of the Japanese and uses her influence to help her family and the camp. Throughout the story, she constantly questions her luck and good fortune, while we as readers question how she could feel so grateful given her circumstances.
We also see that the Japanese as human. At the end when the commandant is ordered to destroy the camp and everyone in it, he can not because he cares for his prisoners. Rita was in a unique position (as interpreter) to see both sides of the story.

Discussion Questions:
Why do you feel that they had separate camps for the men and the women? Why do you suppose Rick (Rita) was allowed to stay with the women even though by the end of the war “he” is technically a young man?
There a few instances in the book where Rick reveals “his” true identity. When does “he” do this? Why does “he” do it? Does it help “him” in the long run?
Do you think that Rita sugar coated her story in this memoir? Why or why not?

Reader Response: I liked the fact that this YA selection was nonfiction being a memoir. I really enjoy historical pieces and this was no exception (though I believe that life in the prison camp was probably far worse than is depicted in Rita’s story). The book reads almost like an adventure story where we wonder what Rita/Rick will get to do next. I admire Rita’s determination to stay positive and do anything she can to help her family. I was also surprised at how she grew to respect those Japanese who were in charge of the camp. I was even more surprised at how she was respected by those in charge of the camp. She was given tasks that most grown men would not be able to do in an efficient organized manner. I have to wonder how her story would be different if she had not donned the disguise of a boy. ( )
  atinker | Jun 23, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0763633291, Hardcover)

Told in her own words, here is the true story of a girl who posed as a boy during World War II — and dared to speak up for her fellow prisoners of war.

With the Japanese army poised to invade their Indonesian island in 1942, Rita la Fontaine’s family knew that they and the other Dutch and Dutch-Indonesian residents would soon become prisoners of war. Fearing that twelve-year-old Rita would be forced to act as a "comfort woman" for the Japanese soldiers, the family launched a desperate plan to turn Rita into "Rick," cutting her hair short and dressing her in boy’s clothes. Rita’s aptitude for languages earned her a position as translator for the commandant of the prisoner camp, and for the next three years she played a dangerous game of disguise while advocating against poor conditions, injustice, and torture. Sixty-five years later, Rita describes a war experience like no other — a remarkable tale of integrity, fortitude, and honor.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:18 -0400)

With the Japanese army poised to invade their Indonesian island in 1942, Rita la Fontaine's family knew that they and the other Dutch and Dutch-Indonesian residents would soon become prisoners of war. Fearing that twelve-year-old Rita would be forced to act as a "comfort woman" for the Japanese soldiers, the family launched a desperate plan to turn Rita into "Rick," cutting her hair short and dressing her in boy's clothes. Rita's aptitude for languages earned her a position as translator for the commandant of the prisoner camp, and for the next three years she played a dangerous game of disguise while advocating against poor conditions, injustice, and torture. Sixty-five years later, Rita describes a war experience like no other--a remarkable tale of integrity, fortitude, and honor.--From publisher description.… (more)

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Candlewick Press

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