The Soldier, the Avatar, and the Holocaust Reviews and Q & A


Ronni Sanlo has written an extraordinary book! This book should be recommended reading for all high school students to have a better understanding of what really happened in the holocaust, and to honor the words of “Never Again!

Barbra Miner
Synagogue Board Chair


This book transcends generations as the soldier/protagonist fights in the US Army during WWII while the student/Avatar fights her own personal war. From the perspective of this retired military person, Dr. Sanlo got the military piece right. It’s an important read for people of all ages.

Jeri Neiberding
US Air Force/Ret


I hold a Ph.D. in US history and a master’s degree in European history, both focusing on the social/cultural history of the 20th century I felt knowledgeable about how the average citizen responded to the vagaries and horrors of war, that is, until I read Ronni Sanlo’s The Soldier, The Avatar, and the Holocaust. This book is an historical novel but she did not flinch on research. There are several explored themes including what happened to German children during war, the desire of the young Jewish soldier who is determined to avenge the death of his extended family at the hands of the Nazis, and the need of the avatar to understand. This is an exciting book. Sanlo walks her readers through the war and through the eyes and ears of two young people from different centuries but of the same family. Where the 20th century soldier is accepting of the status quo in all things war, our 21st century time-traveller questions everything she sees, hears, and does. Imaginative, humorous, and compelling, this book will have a substantial impact on every person who reads it. A fascinating read indeed.

Dr. Regina Lark
History Professor
Pearce College, Los Angeles


The Soldier, the Avatar, and the Holocaust brought me to tears. As a U.S. Army veteran, I was completely pulled into the story, and felt such compassion for Sandy. The book is extremely well written. Descriptions are excellent, and the rhythm of the writing is consistent throughout. And I learned so much!

Helen Ruth Schwartz
US Army Veteran


Sanlo, a gifted historian and storyteller, inspires readers of all ages to follow the pathway of humanity, respect, and dignity.

Judy Chiasson, PhD
Human Relations, Diversity & Equity
Los Angeles Unified School District

Q&A with Ronni Sanlo and The Soldier, the Avatar, and the Holocaust

Q: What inspired The Soldier, the Avatar, and the Holocaust?

A: I had heard my father’s WWII stories for my entire life, but he spoke only about his more humorous experiences and not about the killing, nor did he talk about the liberation of Dachau. As he aged, though, he began to be more inclusive of his more serious experiences. The story grew out of a family gathering in which my young granddaughters asked specific questions about the war. It was at that meeting that I learned that my mother had saved the letters my dad wrote while he was in Europe in 1945.

Two other pieces that touched me deeply and challenged me to write this book. First, when I was a young Jewish girl, my grandfather Saul Lebman always quoted Rabbi Hillel who said, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” The message was that it was my responsibility to tell and re-tell our stories. The second piece was a video I saw entitled 94 Maidens by Ronda Fink-Whitman in which college students were clueless about any aspect of the Holocaust. I knew I had to tell the story.

Q: What is an historical novel?

A:  An historical novel, or historical fiction, is a story that takes place in the past and conveys realistic detail of historical fact while incorporating a storyline that may not be true. My book is historical in that most of the details pertaining to the war are true based on my extensive research. The part about the avatar, of course, is not true.

Q: What sort of research did you do to write this novel?

A:  I’m a retired UCLA professor with many publications to my credit, so research is second nature to me. As I began reading my father’s letters, I knew I needed accurate information about his army unit. I obtained data from the National Military Archives as well as from the 42nd Rainbow Division archives and the New York Public Library archives. I also took a trip to Europe to follow the Rainbow Trail and to visit to Dachau concentration camp.

Q: How did you decide on the structure of the novel?

A: I struggled a great deal with structure. I started writing the story but it was bland. I was actually boring myself! My granddaughters came to visit and we chatted about the storyline. As they were asking their questions and sharing their own stories, I knew I needed to write a book that would appeal not only to the general population but more specifically to young adult readers.

Q: What is your writing process like?

A:  I have no specific writing process, though I like to write in the early morning by the fire. My home is Sequim, WA, overlooks the Strait of Juan DeFuca which is such an inspirational location for me. Writing there is a delight. In my old age, I like balance in my life and I like having fun adventures with my partner Kelly. I suppose I could get my writing done quicker if I just kept my butt in chair but life is to be lived, and I do!.

Q: What is your next project?

A:  I have two projects working. I’m writing a screenplay for a book entitled Sing, Meadowlark, a wonderful futuristic story about homosexuality in the U.S. in 2055. The other project is an historical novel about lesbians in Key West beginning with the foundation of the cigar business in Cuba. (There really is a connection!) I’ve already been to Cuba to do the initial research.