SUCKER GARDEN–It shouldn’t be too long now before Gerard van Veen’s Schoolboy in Wartime – Memories of My Early Years is published here. House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP) started working on the manuscript of the senior author early this year.
The autobiographical writing is mostly about Van Veen’s childhood and his family’s experiences during World War II (1939 to 1945) in his native Alkmaar during the German occupation of the Netherlands.
The idea for the book, however, was born in St. Maarten. “One day in 2015, my wife Bernadine came back from physiotherapy and told me that the therapist had said: ‘Your husband always writes nice stories about your family and your ancestors. Did he never write about himself and his family?’ That’s when I realized it never came to my mind to write about my own family. But the more I thought about it, I thought I could give it a try,” said Van Veen.
According to HNP, the author recalls family lore and war secrets; being asked to prepare vestments for a Nazi “soldier priest” during the occupation of his neighbourhood; the sudden disappearance of a Jewish citizen who frequented the shop of his grandparents; his father returning from “police action” in the “Dutch East Indies,” the present-day Indonesia; and school days.
Period photographs will enhance the book with images of Alkmaar men forced to board trucks for work camps in Germany, women in search of food during the “Hunger Winter,” and of the author’s family and school life.
“On Tuesday, HNP obtained permission info for the last photo from the Netherlands Photo Museum,” said HNP President Jacqueline Sample.
In the first chapter of the book’s manuscript, completed during the weeks following Hurricane Irma, Van Veen links his experiences with war in Europe and hurricanes in the Caribbean with the following observation.
“Hurricanes have something in common with a man-made war. It is not only the frightening hours of a devastating storm or the threatening behaviour of the enemy, but also the aftermath of weeks, months, or even years.” Van Veen, a former Catholic priest, is the author of nine books.