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Sensing Where One Belongs

Understanding “heimat” can only be found again in memory
Artfuldodger2013b, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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Understanding “heimat” can only be found again in memory

I am Galen Boehme from Offerle, Kansas, for HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club. I am covering Nora Krug’s novel Belonging where she pictures the desire of a German family to recognize the dignity of each individual in spite of the decisions that the individual has made.

I am Galen Boehme from Offerle, Kansas, for HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club. I am covering Nora Krug’s novel Belonging where she pictures the desire of a German family to recognize the dignity of each individual in spite of the decisions that the individual has made.

This fictional autobiography has the author, Krug, dealing with the events in two time periods. She is currently living in the present here, within the United States where social practices make her somewhat ashamed of her German heritage – basically because the political practices that Germany tried to institute during World War I and II. The mentioning of Hitler’s name and the Nazi regime brings a negative reaction among many of her neighbors in Brooklyn New York.

She seeks the positive benefits of the German culture. To reach this end, she searches for the political and social reasoning that her forebearers used while living in Germany. She calls these insights “crumbs.” To grasp the reasoning of these family members, both on the paternal and the maternal sides of her family, she explores the possible answers to several questions.

How did her family members treat the Jewish people? How did these family members regard Hitler and his policies? How strongly were these family members committed to their convictions about these issues? What internal conflicts existed within her family members as they dealt with these contemporary issues? How were the issues resolved and to what level of success? What positive contributions has the German society made to contemporary culture?

The author illustrates in depth the worthiness of the resources she uses to answer her questions. First, she conducts and records interviews with family members who are still living from that time period. If certain key individuals are deceased, the author interviews descendants of the deceased. Second, she finds artifacts of the time period whether they be letters, legal documents, newspaper articles, actual pictures, or hand-held material objects such as knives or cooking utensils. Then she devotes cut knives to explain the significance of these items. Third, she devotes several pages of the book the explaining the significance of several daily-used domestic items of German origin such as glue and bread.

Foremost, the author adopts the graphic novel approach to convey her findings. Throughout the novel, she presents the content in script form, in cartoon form as well as in various page designs. This approach allows the reader to grasp more content more easily than if she presented all the material in script form. One more easily understands with this format the interrelated nature of the characters as the author presents at least 24 related characters from both the paternal and the maternal sides of the Krug family in its totality.

One cannot skim-read pages as the light print on the light background makes reading a challenge. Perhaps the author adopts this approach to force the reader to meditate more fully upon the given thought.

The title of the book Belonging represents well the theme of the book sensing that where one belongs involves not only involves historical perspective but also gives direction and pride to one’s life. Krug’s primary point has merit.

Heimat can only be found again in memory. It only begins to exist once you have lost it. The German word heimat means “home.” Thus, the value of our personal life and culture takes on a deeper significance once we find ourselves moving to a later season of our lives. At that time, we find that the values learned at the home state provide guidance for our later days.

This insight is to be passed on to individuals to the next generation.

The novel merits our attention. First, the content reminds us we share our lives fully with the people surrounding us, especially the people in our birth families. This sharing includes our beliefs, our convictions, our dreams, and our memories.

Second, decisions bear positive as well as negative consequences, some more immediate than others. However, within each individual exists a desire to be recognized for who I am. That gives me a sense of personal dignity.

For HPPR Radio Readers, I’m Galen Boehme from Offerle, Kansas.

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Spring Read 2022: Graphic Novels—Worth a Thousand Words 2022 Spring ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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