In discussing her “nine lives” as a survivor, Strong writes, “Each turning point in my life has led to new experiences and new understandings – the Japanese concentration camp, my ballet, modeling and the Betty Ford Center. It was there that I first heard: ‘Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is 14-carat gold.’”
In a mesmerizing blend of visual narrative, historical context and evocative memoir, “With Faith, Hope, and Love” artfully combines hand-drawn sketches, photographs and articles to supplement Strong’s personal experience, enriching her words and immersing readers in her world. Strong begins by outlining her Dutch roots and how her family came to the Dutch East Indies before delving into the years she spent interned in Tjideng, a foreign women’s camp. Only 8 years old at the time she was sent to Tjideng, Strong recounts the shocking, inhumane cruelty that was visited upon the women of the camp through the hopeful eyes of a child, remarking on the small pleasures and the innumerable tragedies in equal measure.
After surviving Tjideng, Strong and her sister reunited with their family in Holland and continued their schooling. It was there that Strong discovered her love for ballet, which grew into a career with the National Ballet Company. By happenstance, while on vacation from the company, Strong met her first husband with whom she had two daughters before divorcing. Her married life took her all over the world, including New York, where she was discovered as a fashion model and performed with the June Taylor Dancers and on the “Jackie Gleason Show.”
Though more obstacles lay before her, including the loss of a loved one and alcohol addiction, Strong perseveres throughout. She effortlessly combines her memories with collaged vintage photographs, hand-drawn art and clippings from ads, evoking both historical context and a glimpse into a diary. Most of all, “With Faith, Hope, and Love” chronicles Strong’s undying optimism through cruelty and loss, inspiring readers to live life enormously and without hesitation.
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