I came across Awakening Lives, edited by Jeffrey Shandler, while searching for books on Amazon. It came up in the "Customer Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section and the description caught my attention immediately. I knew this one was different.
Back in the 1930s, the YIVO Institute based in Vilna, Lithuania, held writing contests. They asked for autobiographies from young Jews so they could gain some insight into their lives during the interwar years. The contest deadlines were in 1932, 1934, and 1939. Of the more than 600 autobiographies submitted mainly by Polish Jews, about half were saved by YIVO employees when they had to evacuate their offices ahead of the German invasion. This book presents 15 of those autobiographies, translated from Polish, Hebrew, or Yiddish into English. What distinguishes this collection from other stories from Jews about their lives in Poland during this period is that these autobiographies were written before WWII. The stories wouldn't have been the same if they were told after the war, reflecting back to the years before the Holocaust.