Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Germany

Note: We decided we would post some short reviews (which we've nicknamed "Bookblips") in addition to the the longer staff reviews. Some will be from the new book shelf but others will be old favorites. Check back during the week to see what's new!

My Germany: A Jewish Writer Returns to the World His Parents Escaped by Lev Raphael (940.53118 RAP Main)

Growing up as a child of two Holocaust survivors, Lev Raphael was haunted by Germany and all things German. He used to imagine Europe without a Germany at all, with a coast and beaches where Germany should be. He refused to read books by German authors. He and his brother grew up without grandparents or family heirlooms, with few relatives, and the feeling that nothing they could ever do could possibly match their parents’ achievement: surviving.

Lev was one of the first writers to address what it meant to be a child of Holocaust survivors. Since then, an entire literary genre has sprung up. No matter how hard he tried to avoid it, Germany and the Holocaust appeared as themes. He couldn’t escape them.

After his mother’s death, Lev began to write her biography. He realized he needed to break his vow never to visit Germany, because he needed to see all the places she had seen: the city in which she lived as a child, the labor camp, the displaced persons camp where she met his father. It was a first step at challenging some of his long held fears and assumptions. The second came when a publisher wanted him to do a book tour of Germany.

The resulting book is described as part memoir, part travelogue and part healing journey. The central question is one asked of Lev by a German woman: “Can there be forgiveness?”

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