Writing Bluebird: Nazi Doctors, the CIA, and Choosing Courage

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written by author Sharon Cameron

Bluebird was written during a time that I will always remember as the sunless summer. It was 2020, we were in lockdown, and it was a typical Tennessee season of bright heat, humidity, and cicada-singing. Only, it wasn’t typical. It was a summer of change, of political upheaval, of world-wide death. It was a summer that seemed clouded. Dim. Fuzzy and unreal.

Nazi Doctors, a Top Secret CIA Program, and Choosing Courage
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Fear can be like a veil drawn down, I think, blurring the vision.

And I was writing about a time of fear, 1946, a year dominated by the terrors of a past war, and the strange, and new, unfamiliar world emerging after it. Project Bluebird was born from that fear, a top-secret CIA program to control what should always be uncontrollable: the human mind. The resulting, horrific medical experimentation was taken straight from the records of the concentration camps, performed on unwitting, undervalued American citizens, and by doctors that (I believe) were Nazi war criminals hired by our own government. All to create the perfect spies and assassins, before the Soviet Union could create their own.

The fervor of fear that birthed Project Bluebird, I realized in the heat of my hazy, nightmarish summer, was not so different from our own fear of death. Our fear of immigrants, of “other” ethnicities, and the changing American culture that was causing so much unrest. It wasn’t so different from the fear that drove Hitler’s Nazis. Fear was alive and well, and it was clouding my vision.

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that we do not have to view the world through the veil.

That for every choice made in fear, someone will choose courage. That for every injustice, there will come a justice. That for every Project Bluebird, there is a Powell House, a diverse, multi-religious program created to extend friendship to refugees rebuilding their lives in the United States and give them a haven from the trauma of war. A program in 1946 so far ahead of its time in terms of social justice that it’s hard to believe it even existed. Powell House was a single, shining example of what the world can be when love instead of fear is allowed to focus our lens. To clear our eyes. To show us that we can always, always choose to see the other side.

Even a global pandemic can mean slowing down, spending time with family. It can mean finding the time to finish a book.

It takes courage, sometimes, to pull back that veil. But the view is worth it.

About Sharon Cameron

photo by Rusty Russell

Sharon Cameron is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Dark Unwinding (2012), A Spark Unseen (2013), Rook (2015), The Forgetting (2016), The Knowing (2017), The Light in Hidden Places (2020), and Bluebird (2021), all from Scholastic Press. Her books have won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, the Westchester Fiction Award, the Junior Library Guild’s Gold Standard Award, earned starred reviews from Booklist, SLJ, Book Page and Kirkus, and have been chosen for numerous lists, including Indie Next Top Ten, YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, Jr. Library Guild Gold Standard, Audible Best Books, and numerous state award nominations. The Light in Hidden Places was a 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and has been sold in 19 foreign countries. When not writing, Sharon can be found shooting her longbow, thumbing dusty tomes, pondering the past, or continuing her lifelong search for secret passages. She lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nazi Doctors, a Top Secret CIA Program, and Choosing Courage

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