Untold Stories of WWII

New books with tales you’ve never heard before

Times Square on V-J Day at time of announcement of the Japanese surrender in 1945 / World-Telegram photo by Dick DeMarsico. WikiCommons

This weekend is the 75th anniversary of what used to be called V-J Day, for Victory over Japan, the day that ended World War II with Japan’s surrender. That term was later replaced by Victory Day, but the commemoration itself was phased out as Japan became an increasingly important ally. Today in the United States, Rhode Island is the only state that observed V-J/Victory Day as an official holiday.

All that being said, this seems like an appropriate weekend to acknowledge the history of World War II, a global crisis as unsparing in its scope as the pandemic we all are enduring today. Just as the stories of COVID-19 are innumerable and endlessly varied, so are the inspiring stories that continue to emerge about World War II.

I’ve collected just a few of the recently published books that tell stories you likely have never heard before. These tales are harrowing, heartrending, and fascinating.

Please take a look!

  • The Blossom and the Firefly by Sherri L. Smith. — Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country . . . until he meets Hana.
  • Florence Adler Swims Forever, by Rachel Beanland. — Set in 1934 Atlantic City with WWII a looming presence as one character has emigrated from Nazi Germany. Based on a true story, this family saga is an uplifting portrayal of how the human spirit can endure — and even thrive — after tragedy.
  • Exile Music by Jennifer Steil. — The captivating story of a young Jewish girl whose family flees refined and urbane Vienna for safe harbor in the mountains of Bolivia.
  • Glorious Boy by Aimee Liu. — Set in India’s remote Andaman Islands, the little-known western front of the Pacific Theater, this fascinating tale of family devotion, war, and survival revolves around a mysteriously mute 4-year-old who vanishes on the eve of Japanese Occupation.
  • The Immortals of Teheran, by Ali Araghi. — Though not a WWII story per se, this sweeping, family epic begins with the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941, which lasts for a chunk of the beginning of the novel.
  • The Library Of Legends, by Janie Chang.— Based on a true story and Chinese history, Lian and a group of students must protect the Library of Legends from the Japanese. It’s 1937, and the Japanese have just invaded Nanking.
  • In The Realm Of Ash And Sorrow, by Kenneth W. Harmon. Micah Lund dies on a mission over Hiroshima. His spirit follows a struggling widow, Kiyomi Oshiro. Micah sees the enemy in a new light.
  • Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman.— The attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything for Lana Hitchcock. When the government starts taking away her neighbours as suspected sympathisers, Lana shelters two young German girls, a Japanese fisherman and his son.
  • Universe of Two, by Stephen Kiernan. — A fictionalized account of the life of Charlie Fisk, a gifted mathematician who was drafted into Manhattan Project and ordered against his morals to build the detonator for the atomic bomb. With his musician wife, he spends his postwar life seeking redemption — and they find it together.

Aimee Liu is the author of the new novel Glorious Boy. She teaches in Goddard College’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Port Townsend, WA. Sign up for her newsletter at

Aimee Liu is the bestselling author of novels, most recently Glorious Boy, and nonfiction about eating disorders, wellness and psychology. More@

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