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Mama Namibia
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Tour d'Afrique M-Z Books 2012-16 > Serebrov: Mama Namibia | Namibia (Tour D'Afrique) first read: May 2014

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message 1: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments Feel free to start discussing our official Namibia book here: Mama Namibia.


Valerie I'm about 30% through the book and am trying to understand the historical back drop. Here's a very brief by helpful timeline from the BBC.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-...


Laura | 251 comments Although I initially struggled to get into this book for my personal lack of knowledge on Namibian historical facts, I found it profoundly engaging in the end and I couldn't hold back the tears!. I particularly commend the author for the different use of linguistic styles to show the evolution of the central Herero character Jahorora, from baby girl in her village amidst the Herero tribe to fully grown woman. I wasn't aware of the historical facts of the Herero and I think anthropologically the author has done and excellent job in describing their traditions so lyrically. I was surprised to know most of the Hehero character's story is actually true.


message 4: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments Thanks for posting the link, Valerie!

Wow, you've both gotten into it already, cool! It seems that my library has decided to purchase a copy but I doubt they'll actually be able to make it available to me before the end of June. So I'll just have to read your thoughts for now. :)


Beverly | 543 comments I will be able to start this book in a couple of days when I am traveling.

Thanks for the link.


Valerie Sorry....posted in the wrong place last time.

Any way, I am enjoying this book although I have to pump myself up to read it. It's really tough reading about what happened to the native peoples of Namibia.


message 7: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I don't know anything about Namibia. Laura, did you do a lot of looking stuff up while you read? Your post is inspiring me to get started on the book. Valerie, perhaps reading Laura's comment each time you feel like you need to pump yourself up will help. ;)


Laura | 251 comments I didn't actually look up much except names of places and I googled Herero as I'd never known about the tribe before. I agree that it can be really tough to read about what happened to this tribe, but the legacy of this book is exactly that in my mind - that is gives voice to this (to me previously unknown) part of African history


message 9: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments Hi all,

Exciting news, Mari Serebrov is a Goodreads author and will be joining our discussion here! She's happy to answer any questions about 'Mama Namibia' so fire away.

Maybe she can tell us a bit more about the Herero tribe, sounds like that's a central topic in the book.


message 10: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Muphyn wrote: "Hi all,

Exciting news, Mari Serebrov is a Goodreads author and will be joining our discussion here! She's happy to answer any questions about 'Mama Namibia' so fire away.

Maybe she can tell us a ..."


Excellent! I haven't started yet, but really looking forward to this.


message 11: by Zanna (new) - added it

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments Wow exciting news! = )


message 12: by Mari (new) - added it

Mari (mserebrov) | 12 comments Hi,

I'm delighted that you chose 'Mama Namibia' as part of your book tour. My reason for writing it was to call more attention to this all-but-forgotten tragedy. I truly believe that with every genocide we forget or ignore, we grant permission for the next.

I'd be happy to field any questions you have -- about the book, the genocide or the Herero.

You also might want to look through the posts on the Mama Namibia Facebook page, which I use as a mini-blog. The page has lots of photos and a few slideshows about the history.


message 13: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments Hi Mari,

Welcome and thanks for dropping in! :)

Could you post the link to the Facebook page here? I think that would make it easier to people to check it, it sounds really good.


message 14: by Mari (new) - added it

Mari (mserebrov) | 12 comments Muphyn wrote: "Hi Mari,

Welcome and thanks for dropping in! :)

Could you post the link to the Facebook page here? I think that would make it easier to people to check it, it sounds really good."


Here's the link -- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mama-N...


message 15: by Zanna (new) - added it

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments Thank you Mari!


message 16: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Wow, thank you Mari! I am woefully ignorant of Namibian history. It will be fantastic to have you with us.


Valerie Mari,

Wonderful FB page! Thank you. The pictures are wonderful.

I'm about 75% through the book and am finding it very interesting. I do have a few questions about how the research was done.

- In the book, how the German press was covering the war was mentioned several times. I take it that you used newspapers as a primary source? How accessible were they? What other resources did you use? It must have been a tremendous amount of work. How did you find out about the Herero perspective of the conflict?

- Is Kov based on a real person? Is he a composite of several people?

Thanks so much for joining us. Your book is truly amazing.


Laura | 251 comments Mari

I also have a question - having portrayed the German invasion / genocide from the German perspective which were your primary sources? I'd be interested to know the German point of view nowadays. Your book was fantastic. I cannot thank you enough for raising awareness to this part of history.


message 19: by Mari (new) - added it

Mari (mserebrov) | 12 comments Valerie wrote: "Mari,

Wonderful FB page! Thank you. The pictures are wonderful.

I'm about 75% through the book and am finding it very interesting. I do have a few questions about how the research was done.

-..."


I am glad you enjoyed the book.

I found out about the genocide in 2000 when my husband brought a Herero home from a legal conference on First Peoples. When Uazavara found out I was a writer and historian, he spent several evenings telling me the history of Namibia. (Jahohora was his grandmother. Since he only had the scantest outline of her early life, I had to imagine her character and what she went through after her family was killed.)

My first inclination was to write an academic paper on the links between the 1904 genocide and the Holocaust. But as I started researching, I was amazed at how much had already been written in academic texts and journals. Yet most people still didn't know about the genocide. I realized there was nothing new I could contribute academically, so I looked for a way to make the story more accessible.

As for my research ... I did not read the German newspapers -- English is my only language. But many of the academic texts quoted or paraphrased newspaper accounts. In addition to those texts and countless journal articles, I read the "Blue Book," a compilation of first-hand accounts compiled by the South Africans following World War I. The purpose behind the "Blue Book" was to show that Germany was unfit to have colonies. As a result of the book, the League of Nations stripped Germany of its colonies. South Africa was given the mandate to govern South West Africa and prepare it for independence. After it got what it wanted, South Africa destroyed almost every copy of the "Blue Book" to promote unity among the German and English settlers in South West Africa. A few copies survived in the British Foreign Ministry, but they were off-limits for almost everyone for several decades. The book was recently reprinted.

My biggest research challenge was fleshing out the daily life of a pre-genocide Herero family. All the academic texts deal with the chiefs and socio-political history; they provide no glimpses of everyday life. To get that, I interviewed a number of Herero.
In addition to Uazavara, I got a lot of information from the chief, the chief's likely successor and their wives. I sent them a list of questions that they took to the oldest members of the tribe, some of whom were children during the genocide. They translated the answers and sent them back to me. Then whenever I needed some little detail, I'd email one of them to get what I needed. (In the process of writing this, my husband and I were adopted into Uazavara's family according to traditional custom. Last year, the chief adopted us as his children.)

Kov's story was easier to research. I read an old English translation of Gustav Frenssen's "Peter Moor's Journey to South West Africa." Written soon after the genocide, the book is a fictionalized composite of several soldiers' experiences in South West Africa during the 1904 "rebellion." While the novel was pretty accurate, it provided few place names, none of the officers' names, etc. It also didn't mention the death camps or any of the atrocities. Frenssen's story briefly mentioned a doctor, so I made Kov that character and used the book as an outline for Parts 2 and 3 of Kov's story. I did a lot of online research to find the details Frenssen left out and to correct some of his "facts."

I also did considerable online research for the first part of Kov's story so it would be as realistic as possible -- down to the name of the master stone cutter working on von Epenstein's house, the military uniform the young Herman Goering wore and the botanical gardens at the hospital. When I had questions about 19th century German Judaism, I consulted with two friends who are experts on the subject. Kov's personality is based on some of the men in my life.

As you can imagine, I spent about 10 years researching the book. It took me another year to write it. As I was writing, I often had to go searching for more details because the story would take me in a direction I hadn't planned.



message 20: by Mari (new) - added it

Mari (mserebrov) | 12 comments Laura wrote: "Mari

I also have a question - having portrayed the German invasion / genocide from the German perspective which were your primary sources? I'd be interested to know the German point of view nowada..."

"Peter Moor's Journey" was a great source for the German perspective at the time. Even though it was a novel, it was written soon after the war ended and was a best-seller in Germany for decades.

Many of the academic texts I read included translations of letters and official documents from German colonial officials. While all of them showed a deep-rooted conviction of their superiority to the Herero and Nama, there was disagreement about how they should be handled.

Today, the German perspective on this is equally as divided. Two years ago, the Greens, Social Democrats and the Left Party proposed motions calling for recognition of the 1904 war as a genocide. The motions were voted down. The government has apologized for its "colonial guilt," but it has refused to acknowledge that this was a genocide. When a German government official used the "g-word" at the 100th anniversary of the war in Namibia, the government quickly walked back her words, saying she was speaking for herself -- not for the German government.

Some of the descendants of the German settlers in Namibia still deny these events, despite all the records.


Valerie Mari,

That is an amazing story about your research. What a project.

I was impressed by how Kov's experience in Germany as a Jew during that period so on point. Several years ago I read The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch 1743-1933 and much of Kov's experience accords with what I learned from that book.

I don't know if you intended it but I thought that chosing to make Kov a German Jew was a great plot device - he's an outsider within the power structure and therefore is more willing to think and act differently than his fellow Germans. Was this in your mind as you developed this character?



Mari wrote: "Valerie wrote: "Mari,

Wonderful FB page! Thank you. The pictures are wonderful.

I'm about 75% through the book and am finding it very interesting. I do have a few questions about how the resear..."



message 22: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
wow, Mari! I'm in awe of the research you conducted in order to write this book. I just finished our Mozambique selection for our Tour, so now i am ready to jump into Namibia.

since you have been so immersed in this history, is there anything (a popular history book, articles) that you might recommend to readers who are severely lacking in background knowledge, but are perhaps more curious than the general population? ;)

I'm off to peruse the book's facebook page...


message 23: by Muphyn (last edited May 20, 2014 03:20PM) (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments WOW, Mari, that is an incredible research journey!! Thank you for going into so much detail, describing how you collected information. What an amazing experience to be adopted into your friend's Herero family!!

I spent four years researching German settlers in South Africa (from a linguistics perspective) so I'm an really, really intrigued to read your book now. I think it'll strike a cord with me. :)

And to be honest, I've never heard about the genocide either so very keen to find out more...


message 24: by Mari (new) - added it

Mari (mserebrov) | 12 comments Valerie wrote: "Mari,

That is an amazing story about your research. What a project.

I was impressed by how Kov's experience in Germany as a Jew during that period so on point. Several years ago I read [book:The..."


The primary reasons for putting Kov in the story were to show the long history of anti-semitism in Germany and suggest the link between the Herero/Nama genocide and the Holocaust. (Blaming the Holocaust entirely on Hitler and the Nazis is not only wrong, it is dangerous.)

I also needed Kov to be a doctor since that was the only way a Jew could serve in the German military at the time. And by making him a doctor, I could show what was going on in the death camps.


message 25: by Mari (new) - added it

Mari (mserebrov) | 12 comments Marieke wrote: "wow, Mari! I'm in awe of the research you conducted in order to write this book. I just finished our Mozambique selection for our Tour, so now i am ready to jump into Namibia.

since you have been ..."


Unfortunately, there is no one go-to source for background information, especially in popular literature. Here are a couple of helpful timeline links:
http://www.namibia-1on1.com/herero-up...
http://www.klausdierks.com/Chronology...


message 26: by Mari (new) - added it

Mari (mserebrov) | 12 comments Muphyn wrote: "WOW, Mari, that is an incredible research journey!! Thank you for going into so much detail, describing how you collected information. What an amazing experience to be adopted into your friend's He..."

I'll be interested in getting your feedback, Muphyn, given your research.


message 27: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Thanks, Mari! I think your Facebook page will be a great resource too.

I was born in Germany (to American parents), lived and went to school there, and studied German in college, but had never heard of this event. I will ask my German cousin if she has ever learned about it.

I think you made a great choice to write a novel rather than an academic work. :)


Laura | 251 comments Mari

Thank you so much for your response! I'm really impressed by the amount of research that went behind your work!


message 29: by Mari (new) - added it

Mari (mserebrov) | 12 comments Marieke wrote: "Thanks, Mari! I think your Facebook page will be a great resource too.

I was born in Germany (to American parents), lived and went to school there, and studied German in college, but had never hea..."


Marieke, I was amazed at the number of people in Namibia who didn't now about it. For the sake of "unity," it hasn't been taught much in the schools. Most Namibian history taught in the schools deals with the independence movement. And a museum on the Herero, Nama, Damara and Sans made no mention of it.


message 30: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments Mari wrote: "I'll be interested in getting your feedback, Muphyn, given your research."

I am SOOO impatient for my library to finally get the book, they've ordered it but it always seems to take ages before the book is finally available for loan. Anyway, I'll definitely read it once it gets there, might just not be in time for our Namibia stopover (but oh well... :) ).


message 31: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
i am behind in everything, everywhere, but i did start this book and was enjoying it. As always, our threads stay open, so if you are like me, don't hesitate to join in whenever you are ready! and i hope those who have finished will be inspired to re-join the discussion. :)


message 32: by Zanna (new) - added it

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments I'm glad threads stay open, I'm always behind, but I often arrive eventually!


Beverly | 543 comments Zanna wrote: "I'm glad threads stay open, I'm always behind, but I often arrive eventually!"

So I am - hoping to start this evening!


message 34: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - added it

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I'm glad! Having a schedule helps, especially for opening threads, but really we are kind of about reading and participating at your own pace. :)

We have enough pressure elsewhere, yeah?

:)


Beverly | 543 comments I am a little over 1/2 through and am enjoying the reading experience and how seamlessly the history is interwoven into the storyline.

Before starting this book - I knew so little about Namibia so thanks for expanding my knowledge.

Really enjoying the story between told from the two different perspectives - so much of what happens in a specific place is often better viewed by looking at it from a broader sense of what was going from a world's pov.


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