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Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America

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3.24  ·  Rating details ·  173 ratings  ·  43 reviews
This diary of a smart, astute, and funny teenager provides a fascinating record of what an everyday American girl felt and thought during the Depression and the lead-up to World War II. Young Chicagoan Joan Wehlen describes her daily life growing up in the city and ruminates about the impending war, daily headlines, and major touchstones of the era—FDR’s radio addresses, t ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Chicago Review Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Alex  Baugh
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-2
When I was 9 and my sister was 16, I read her diary. I found out all about her life, what she thought and how she felt about a variety to things. I didn't get caught, so I didn't get punished, but I did suffer an overwhelming guilty conscience for a long time. Consequently, I have never committed an indiscretion like that again. Even so, I have to admit that the bare honestly that can be found in a diary still holds a certain fascination for me. Maybe that is why I like reading published diaries ...more
Christina (Confessions of a Book Addict)
Joan Wehlen is your average girl living through the Depression and the beginnings of World War II. She lives with her family in Chicago, goes to school, gets good grades, enjoys writing, and has many friends. However, Joan's diary is anything but average. Yes, it includes everyday observations and beautiful prose, but also reflections of life leading up to World War II. She discusses events such as FDR's radio address, Hitler, Pearl Harbor, and other important moments of the time. Readers intere ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
The title of this book is such a misnomer. The great majority of these extracts from the author's diaries (put together after her death by her daughter) take place before the US got involved in World War Two, and the book is cut short very soon after. We are told next to nothing of her involvement, if any, in "home front" activities during the years the US actually was making a "war effort." Nothing at all about rationing, scrap and fat drives, save and serve. Zilch nada. She did inspect cans (f ...more
Jennie
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, memoir, women
Very readable diary of a girl coming of age in Chicago during the 30s and 40s. I love to read others' journals, and I love that time period. She provides a nice balance of thoughtful prose and silly romance and family events, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. The journal was edited by her daughter, and the notes added were helpful without being too interpretive. So many women of that time are portrayed as boy crazy or martyred or prim. Joan was none of these (all right, maybe a little boy cr ...more
Charlotte
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
This the actual diary of Joan Wehlen Morrison (1922-2010), beginning in 1937, when she is fourteen, and continuing to February, 1942. Joan Wehlen was clearly destined to become a writer--her diary entries, transcribed by her daughter after her death, are funny, coherent, thoughtful, and diverting.

Joan starts her diary as a high school sophomore in Chicago, at a time when the country was recovering (mentally and materially) from the Great Depression. Her journal entries are full of the everyday d
...more
Allison
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing

When most people think of diaries written during World War II, Anne Frank comes to mind. Germany, Poland, France, and sometimes Japan and Pearl Harbor come to mind. Soldiers come to mind. But what about the teens living in America’s heartland? The ones who werent affected by the war until the 1940s. The ones who had a relatively normal life all things considered?

Susan Signe Morrison allows readers to catch a glimpse of that life by publishing excerpts from her mother, Joan’s, diaries. The diarie
...more
Lacey Louwagie
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I went through a phase when I lived in Duluth in which I was OBSESSED with reading published diaries, and it was fun to return to that interest when I read this book for work. It's a diary kept from 1937 - 1942, and its rich with period details and history. I was impressed with the care and detail Joan wrote with, especially not knowing what a treasure trove of historical insight her diary would present in the future. She's a good writer, expressive and descriptive, fully engaged in her life and ...more
Betsy
Jan 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Review originally posted on Literaritea.

Remember Anne of Green Gables' delightul, dramatic, so-very-intense-and-everything-is-so-of-the-moment-and... voice? That's what this collection of real diary entries reminds me of. Joan Whelan was a teenager in Chicago in the years leading up to WWII. Her daughter collected the entries, edited them down, and produced this book which is a fun peek into the world of teenaged girls in the late 30's. And you know what? Some things never change. Sure the cultu
...more
Literary Classics Book Awards & Reviews
Joan was an extraordinarily bright and insightful young girl growing up in Chicago at the advent of the second world war. She had a profound love of literature, an introspective outlook on relationships with the opposite sex and was an extremely gifted writer. After Joan's passing in 2010, her adult daughter (award-winning author, Susan Signe Morrison) discovered Joan's diaries and other collections of her writings, which she skillfully compiled into the literary treasure Home Front Girl. This b ...more
Pam
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bios-memoirs, history
How do I possibly rate a diary written by a teenage girl from her heart? Joan Wehlen Morrison did an excellent job writing her diary which is full of emotion and heart. But her daughter Susan Signe Norrison and the publisher, Chicago Review Press, failed to put her diary in context. First of all, the title "Home Front Girl" is misleading as very little of the diary was actually written during the war. Secondly, the diary is presented basically as it was written with little to no background infor ...more
Cecelia
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a kid I loved historical fiction, and especially WWII fiction. I also read (for myself first and then for school) The Diary of Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. These nonfiction first-hand accounts showed not only the immediacy of war, but also the personalities of those who survived it and found ways to thrive amidst terrible events. You had to be inspired by the intelligence and humanity of these women, writing and telling stories and falling in love or doing what was right ...more
Elisabeth
3.5 stars. The title of this book may seem slightly misleading, since America didn't become an actual "home front" until entering the war, and that point doesn't come until pretty far into the book. The war didn't really affect Joan Wehlen's life in a personal sense during the time she kept these journals, though she was always aware that it was going on.

Home Front Girl does provide a nice, if small, snapshot of what life was like for an average teenager in a certain part of America during the l
...more
Phylicia
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
#'s in parenthesis are page numbers.
Interesting part about Joan's jobs at camp (7)
Interesting views on Mondays (12)
Joan thinks her teacher looks like Hitler (18)
Joan's question on friendship (28)
A few pages had too many dashes that it was hard to focus on what I'm reading.
Some reason Joan had her eye removed, and it didn't say when it was put back. I don't think she mentioned why her eye was removed. If she did, I don't remember why.
Joan gets her dates mixed up by saying something has happened w
...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
When I was younger, I loved books like Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata's Diary (a diary of a girl growing up in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War). The first is very well known and the second is not as well known. What they have in common is that they are both important books showcasing the way that people lived during really difficult times in our shared history. Home Front Girl is a book in that same tradition.

Joan is a young girl growing up around Chicago during World War II. The bo
...more
Adrienne
Dec 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: informational

Joan Wehlen was just your average American girl, growing up in the Great Depression and then on the eve of, and during, World War II. She had a hard time getting to school on time and went through quite the series of crushes on boys, but she also worried about impending war and how those she knew would be impacted. While she worried about things like test grades, she also was a pacifist who didn't see how peace could come from war--and yet worked in aide movements to help the war efforts.

Coverin
...more
Jay
Dec 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: diary
After reading a review of Home Front Girl in the Austin-American Statesman, I became intrigued to learn of life in Chicago shortly before and after the outbreak of WWII when I was too young to remember anything. I was intrigued to read this book because of my associations with Chicago, the University of Chicago, and Texas where the Home Front Girl’s daughter teaches and edited her mother’s diary, which was compared to that of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. From a sociological point of view, ...more
Mary
Dec 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: never-finished
It's probably not fair to rate this book, because I did not finish it, but only skimmed the ending. But it might be interesting to others to hear why I felt this way.

This is an only slightly edited diary, actually written by a Chicago teenager before and during WWII. Joan Wehlen was a bright and articulate young girl, and, sometimes, reading her thoughts was like watching silent fireworks bloom. There are lovely things here. But there is also a typical teen's self-absorption, and some of the ref
...more
Kim
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I started this book just the other day and didn't want to put it down. I loved it! I loved the insight into what a teenager was like back in the late 30's and early 40's and found Joan, the protagonist to be very much interested in many of the same things as today's teens...friends, social life, school, teachers, etc. What I did find different was the insight that Joan seemed to have on life at such a young age. I don't know if that was typical of kids of her time period, but I found it interest ...more
Diana S
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wonderful Book! Joan, a fourteen year old, telling us through her diary. What life was liked for her, her family, and friends, during the end of the Great Depression and then World War II. One moment, she's talking about her friends, school, movies, her current crushes, and then December 7, 1941 happened. Pearl Harbor, the day her life and the lives around her turned up-sided down. Friends began enlisting. Rationing became a part of her life. There was worked in aide movements to help the war ef ...more
University of Chicago Magazine
Joan Wehlen Morrison, U-High'40, AB'44
Author

From our pages (Jan–Feb/13): "Chicago schoolgirl Joan Wehlen was 14 in 1937 when she began keeping a journal. Smart, funny, and with an eye for detail, she recorded events from her daily life—friends, classes, movies, books, boys—and thoughts about the world around her, ruminating on the Great Depression and FDR’s fireside chats, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Pearl Harbor, and the lead-up to World War II. She kept the diary until 1943. After her death in 2
...more
Karen (Living Unabridged)
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography, ww2
Interesting memoir of a girl growing up in Chicago during the depression and Second World War. (The diary entries shared cover 1937-1942.) Marked as a "teen" book at my library but this book is an enjoyable read for adults too.

The footnotes are basic, presumably for those teens who wouldn't know that "White Cliffs of Dover" was a popular song during the Second World War, and, therefore, kind of annoying instead of helpful. The content is excellent though and Joan Wehlen sounds like someone you'd
...more
Penny
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it
This IS a teenager's diary, but it's well-edited to make it readable, and it and provides a fascinating window into daily life for a girl coming of age in the late 1930s and early 1940s. I found Joan to be a bit frustrating at times - the simplistic pacifism juxtaposed with matter of fact listings of which countries Hitler had conquered that day made me want to grab her by the shoulders and shake her - but at the same time she was a highly intelligent and perceptive girl, and we are lucky to hav ...more
Janis
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Home Front Girl, the diary of a Chicago teenager written during the years 1937-1942, offers a slice of life of those pre-war and war years. It also, as Joan writes in a late entry, includes those things that people tend to forget when they grow older. I appreciated Joan’s intelligence and enthusiasm, and the reminder of what it was like to be a teenager -- at one moment exploring the great questions of life and the next moment listing potential boyfriends.
Dichotomy Girl
This was mildly interesting, but failed to live up to it's full potential. I think it would have been better served as a fictionalized account with a real foundation (such as the Little House books).

In it's current state, it is much too disjointed, and ended really abruptly (Gee, an afterword or epilogue would have been nice).

I guess that's true to life, but not necessarily the best reading experience.

2.5 Stars
Jill Robbertze
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it
This interesting little book is made up of extracts from the journals of a very intelligent, American teenaged girl written in the years pre-WW2 and later as a young woman during the war years. The title is a bit miss-leading in that a lot of what we learn about her is more about her school and College life, her boyfriends and her feelings and opinions about what she is hearing on the news about the current events. I enjoyed it and give it 3.5 Stars.
Read  Ribbet
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Sharon
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
It was a good representation of the time, and intresting to see the world through this young womans eye's, but it could not hold my intrest.
I did get a bit annoyed with the footnotes explaining what to me was already known, but understand for a younger reader, or one who may not have read as much as I, why they would be important, so as to explain the writers refrences.
Sherry
Mar 14, 2013 rated it liked it
I really liked that Joan was a down-to-earth kind of girl. She is a normal teenage girl who has crushes, likes movies, can't decide what to with her life, and then WWII happens.

This book reminded me of how much language and customs have changed since the 40's.

Read if you like biography, WWII, and patriotism.
Deborah Adams
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beginning with 14-year-old Joan Wehlen's diary entries in 1937 and continuing through 1942, this is an in-the-moment look at how America reacted to the war in Europe. Either teenagers were far more engaged with the world in those days or Joan was an exceptional young woman -- possibly both. Few books about Homefront America exist, and this one is especially rich in details of ordinary days.
Great Books
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ages-12-14
Teenager, Joan Wehlen, writes her secrets, opinions, fears and daily stories in her diary beginning in 1937 through the years during World War II. The diaries were found by her daughter after Joan's death and expertly edited into this fascinating view of the prewar and war years. Would make a great companion to Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl.
Reviewer #2
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