The 20th Century's Most Famous Wall

Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Thursday, May 23, 2019

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From 1961 to 1989, a barbed wire-topped concrete wall divided Berlin, Germany, preventing free movement of family members, friends, and anyone engaged in daily business from crossing the more than 800-year-old city. Our audiobook pair this week bookends the night that wall was built with the call for its destruction in a speech by a U.S. President. With the topic of border wall building frequently in today’s news, we think this visit to the recent past is in order.


From Scholastic Audiobooks, A NIGHT DIVIDED offers novelist Jennifer A Nielsen’s younger teen audience a realistic story about how the Soviet wall between East and West Berlin brought sudden disruption to families who became barricaded from each other overnight. Kate Simses narrates with voicing and pacing that help listeners to understand the feelings as well as the facts as she reads about the despair felt by schoolgirl Gerta and her family members in East Berlin and her interpretation of what they can see of her father beyond the wall as an invitation to dare to escape to him and the West.

After becoming acquainted with the psychological hardships the Berlin Wall put on those in both East Berlin and family members in the West, older listeners can turn to Oasis Audio’s nonfiction TEAR DOWN THIS WALL: A CITY, A PRESIDENT, AND A SPEECH THAT ENDED THE COLD WAR. Author and TIME magazine journalist Romesh Ratnesar provides accessible and comprehensive context for his critical discussion of President Ronald Reagan’s speech, delivered in West Berlin in 1987, and now recognized as a watershed moment in international politics. An interview with the author about how he came to select this subject for intensive analysis forms the audiobook’s introduction, followed by an archival recording of President Reagan’s speech. The bulk of the audiobook is narrated by Wes Bleed, in tones that invite listening readers to give consideration to Ratnesar’s thorough analysis of both the era and the speech.

While not all SYNC participants will be ready to consume both these audiobooks about the Berlin Wall right now, we think this pair is a good one to keep on hand together, listening first to the novel set in 1961, and later to the examination of the period  just before the Wall’s demise. Refer to this description of the Berlin Wall’s physical properties and symbolic purpose for a clear view of this Cold War artifact.

Bonus for scholarly oriented teens: Ratnesar's work here can also serve as a fine model in how to select a research topic and then analyze it in a compelling manner.

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