To whom it may concern:
I am a Barnes & Noble customer, and recently signed up for your educator card. I enjoy shopping at your stores, but my visit yesterday to your Hingham store left me feeling frustrated. I was searching for a copy of Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night. I teach this to my 12th grade English class, and I wanted my own copy so that I may make notes in it. My search through the biography/autobiography section was fruitless. I next looked in the world history section, then finally stumbled upon the book in the religion section.
Yes, I know that this may seem a trivial thing to complain about. But I must say, the category that this book was filed under troubles me. While Wiesel is a Jewish man whose book is about his experiences in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, this is not a “Jewish book.” It is not about an issue that is purely about religion, but rather it is about an issue of humanity. Though the memoir does in part discuss Wiesel’s increasing loss of faith, it is most importantly a glimpse into the evils that human beings are capable of committing against one another, and the strength and endurance of the human spirit when dealing with the worst possible circumstances. These are themes that transcend religion and that are vital for everyone to learn.
The Holocaust did not just affect Jews. The Nazis also targeted communists, gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, and anyone else whom they deemed a social deviant or threat. And genocide is not a problem that has disappeared from our world—it happened in Rwanda in 1994 and has been happening again in Darfur. At the back of Night, the publisher has included a copy of Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize speech. In this speech, he says, “If we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.” Well, the world seems to be forgetting what we learned from the Holocaust. Many people even vehemently deny that it ever happened. This seems ludicrous, but they certainly do have their audience, and that is a frightening thing. If we forget what has happened, we are allowing history to continue repeating itself.
To get to my point, the decision to put this book in the religion section devalues its message and its power. It makes it seem as though it is just an issue of religion, and ignores the larger connections. We need, more than ever, to keep these firsthand accounts alive. We cannot be allowed to forget the nightmare that was the Holocaust. Please consider putting this great book with the other autobiographies, as this will help it reach its proper audience and better serve your customers.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Your loyal customer,