A Coal Miner’s Bride: The Diary of Anetka Kaminska
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Grade 6 and up
Dear America books tend to be hit or miss with me. I either love them or just don’t care for them. A Coal Miner’s Bride: The Diary of Anetka Kaminska was one that I absolutely adored. It’s a heart wrenching story about a thirteen year old Russian immigrant girl whose family has come to Lattimer, Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines. Her father arranges for her to marry a recent widow twice her age. Anetka does not love this man, who has been left with three young daughters to raise, and to further complicate matters, she has a budding relationship with a young man who accompanied them safely to America. Despite her objections to the marriage, her father forces her to go through with it.
Anetka must learn to accept her marriage, care for children that are not her own and keep a house—a daunting task for a thirteen year old girl. Her diary entries vividly depict her struggles and her growth. She is continuously faced with challenges that she tackles head on, struggling through them the best she can. She is a strong character who does not let the weight of life crush her even at the worst of times.
I love the historical aspect of this book as well. The picture it depicts of life in 1896 comes alive. Details are worked seamlessly into the descriptions. While the book offers a wealth of “facts,” they aren’t just added because they’re “interesting”. They’re relevant to each scene, which makes this book stand out from so many of the Dear America novels.
Part of the reason this story resonated so much with me is that my great-grandfather emigrated from Poland to work in the Pennsylvania coal mines. I’ve always wanted to tell a story centered around an immigrant family and life in the coal mines. This book does beautifully what I one day hope to do—tell a story of the difficult life these immigrants lived. If you only read one Dear America book I wholeheartedly recommend that you read this one. You will not be disappointed.