Marian Beaman's Reviews > Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home

Belonging by Nora Krug
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it was amazing
bookshelves: have-read

Nora Krug in her visual narrative, Belonging, leaves her home in Brooklyn and flies to Germany more than once to excavate the shards of her relatives’ existence. Her award-winning memoir records the process of her trying to put the puzzle pieces back together again though she doesn’t expect to find easy answers or even a final resolution. Halfway through the story, Krug exclaims in a family gathering near Külsheim: “Everybody here, except me, knows where I belong. Geographically. Historically. Genetically.”

Like author May Sarton who admits that she writes to answer questions for herself, memoirist Nora Krug’s heart and mind also long to know: Was her own grandfather Willi a Nazi? A secret resister? A coward? Something else? What about Uncle Franz Karl?

I felt Krug’s ambivalence as she wrote, simultaneously drawn to a personal history that may reveal entanglements with the Holocaust, and anticipating emotions of guilt and sorrow those discoveries may bring. Yet there are intimations of forgiveness and loyalty in her heritage. I found especially touching her conversation with her mother near the end where Nora hears the tears in her mother’s voice on the phone as she realizes her newfound willingness to reckon with the past.

Snippets of primary documents, artifacts, photographs, even “Bambi”-themed wallpaper enable the author to share her personal search for “heimat,” a German term defining a place that offers a sense of identity. Of belonging. At first glance, Nora Krug’s memoir reminded me of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, but Krug takes the “comic” art form into a far more complex level, spanning generations.

On a design note, occasionally, the typeface color was too pale, or there was not enough contrast with black type on a dark background color for easy reading. Nevertheless, in my opinion, this book deserves the National Book Critics Circle Award it has garnered.

Nora Krug, of German Catholic heritage, has a Jewish husband and has dedicated this volume to “my old family and my new family,” truly A German Reckon[ing] with History and Home, as her sub-title suggests. Near the end of the book, Krug expresses the depth and breadth of her exploration when she queries: “I open the windows and let the darkness in. What does it take to reconstruct a fractured family?”

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 30, 2019 – Shelved
November 30, 2019 – Shelved as: have-read
November 30, 2019 – Finished Reading

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