Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home

Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home

A revelatory, visually stunning graphic memoir by award-winning artist Nora Krug, telling the story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history.Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long sh...

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Title:Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home
Author:Nora Krug
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Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home Reviews

  • Geoffrey

    (Note: I received an advanced reader's copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley)

    Between the real life photos and documents that are mixed with absolutely gorgeous art, and Nora Krug's meticulous documentation of her quest to unravel and understand her family's history, it's impossible to not feel like you were placed in the author's shoes and taken along for every single step of her journey. You will be unsettled by the same questions and worries that weigh on her, end up feeling the same thirst

    (Note: I received an advanced reader's copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley)

    Between the real life photos and documents that are mixed with absolutely gorgeous art, and Nora Krug's meticulous documentation of her quest to unravel and understand her family's history, it's impossible to not feel like you were placed in the author's shoes and taken along for every single step of her journey. You will be unsettled by the same questions and worries that weigh on her, end up feeling the same thirst for answers, and feel the same grapple of emotions that beset her with every new revelation about the past. It's an experience that you should not pass up, especially considering the present. With mass dehumanization of others on a fierce and continuing rise, Krug will do the much-needed favor of making you think of what it means to have a national past shaped by dark forces.

    One of the best books I've read this year.

  • Elizabeth

    Belonging is an absolutely beautiful memoir full of questions about identity, family and homeland. Nora Krug was born and raised in Germany, in the shadow of World War II. Belonging is a deeply personal memoir about her struggles with German identity, coming to terms with her family history, and exploring the German idea of Heimat, or homeland. Her journey leads her to talking to Holocaust survivors in her new homeland of Brooklyn, traveling with her mother and father to Germany, meeting many un

    Belonging is an absolutely beautiful memoir full of questions about identity, family and homeland. Nora Krug was born and raised in Germany, in the shadow of World War II. Belonging is a deeply personal memoir about her struggles with German identity, coming to terms with her family history, and exploring the German idea of Heimat, or homeland. Her journey leads her to talking to Holocaust survivors in her new homeland of Brooklyn, traveling with her mother and father to Germany, meeting many unexpected people and gaining many new insights into her family's history and how it relates to history at large. The artistic style is stunning. The font chosen for the book looks hand written, and photographs and documents are interspersed with illustrations. This is such a deeply personal story, but I related to it on many levels. The search for identity, trying to learn about people in your past who have died long ago, and figuring out where is your homeland were all things I could relate to. Belonging is a masterpiece of a book, a book that makes the best use of a graphic novel format, and a memoir that should join classics like Persepolis or Maus.

    Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  • Laura

    In "The Germans" episode of

    , Basil is told not to mention the war, but he does, frequently, until the guest break out in tears. At the time, I thought it odd that the germans would be upset about it. As Basil said, they started it.

    I bring this up, because the author of this story, is one such German, who knows about the war, but it is not talked about, though her father's older brother fought and died in World War II. This memoir of how she doesn't feel that she has a home in her f

    In "The Germans" episode of

    , Basil is told not to mention the war, but he does, frequently, until the guest break out in tears. At the time, I thought it odd that the germans would be upset about it. As Basil said, they started it.

    I bring this up, because the author of this story, is one such German, who knows about the war, but it is not talked about, though her father's older brother fought and died in World War II. This memoir of how she doesn't feel that she has a home in her former homeland, and how she goes in search of what her family did in the war, and what happened to them.

    There has been a sense of guilt she has felt, from her homeland, and she finds it follows her abroad.

    It is an amazing book. When the Americans came and saw what had happened in the concentration camps, they forced the citizens to not only look on the dead, but to transport them and give them decent burials.

    And so, with this background, and the feeling of shame, the author goes in search of the uncle that died int he war, as well as her grandfather. She wants to know if her family really was evil. Did they support Hitler, of were they sheep, just followers.

    She goes and talks to relatives still living in Germany, and finds source documents, to find the story of those that came before her.

    It is a long and interesting journey, and one that is part speculation.

    But the depth that she goes to, in her search, is amazing. What a fanstastic, book, going into the heart and soul of the survivors.

    Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.

  • Deb

    We all Search: for roots, meaning, answers, stories, purpose. Nora Krug’s Belonging is the author’s journey of making her way back to the German towns her parents and relatives are from and learning their stories. It’s about Searching, Finding her own way, figuring out Collective Guilt, following the bread crumbs, hoping they’ll lead her ‘home.’

    This ‘graphic memoir’ engaged me from the moment I opened it. Mesmerizing, creative, dramatic. I’ve never seen anything like it. (That’s a compliment of

    We all Search: for roots, meaning, answers, stories, purpose. Nora Krug’s Belonging is the author’s journey of making her way back to the German towns her parents and relatives are from and learning their stories. It’s about Searching, Finding her own way, figuring out Collective Guilt, following the bread crumbs, hoping they’ll lead her ‘home.’

    This ‘graphic memoir’ engaged me from the moment I opened it. Mesmerizing, creative, dramatic. I’ve never seen anything like it. (That’s a compliment of the highest order!)

    The first German thing from Krug’s notebook is Hansaplast, a bandage, the safest thing in the world. “It is the most tenacious bandage on the planet, and it hurts when you tear it off to look at your scar.” A metaphor for what’s to come. The heart opening in searching honesty.

    Krug’s Questioning becomes our questioning.

    We don’t talk about the war. My German immigrant grandparents came over after WWI and did not talk about it. The German host family I lived with for a year did not. Nor did my parents (too young to remember much detail.) We don’t talk about the war. I’m glad Krug searched for answers and shared them in this entrancing memoir ‘scrapbook.’ It makes me wonder how much I don’t know about my family.

    Simple powerful drawings with pencil-type color fill the book. Illustrated and photographed faces haunt, making the reader/ watcher pause. Handwritten script is neat, writing is strong, yet concise. School essays, photos, letters, German documents and collages from flea market finds add to the mood of Belonging.

    Krug dedicates the book: To my old family and my new family. Bonds form. Uhu glue is the final German thing Nora elaborates on. While incredibly strong, it cannot fill all the cracks.

    Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for granting access to an arc of this book for an honest review.

  • Carrie Templeton

    I am almost overwhelmed at the depth and intensity of this graphic memoir. My husband is a second generation German American, his father was born in Germany shortly before the end of WWII and his mother is of Jewish heritage. As a child, my husband wasn’t taught German and learned very little of his father’s family, never heard stories of the homeland. Reading this book felt like peeking behind an unspoken curtain into some inkling of my father-in-law’s thoughts. I was absolutely captivated both

    I am almost overwhelmed at the depth and intensity of this graphic memoir. My husband is a second generation German American, his father was born in Germany shortly before the end of WWII and his mother is of Jewish heritage. As a child, my husband wasn’t taught German and learned very little of his father’s family, never heard stories of the homeland. Reading this book felt like peeking behind an unspoken curtain into some inkling of my father-in-law’s thoughts. I was absolutely captivated both for Krug and myself. I will share this digital advanced copy with my husband and hope to build the courage to share a copy with my father-in-law after publication.

  • Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)

    Can I give it an extra star?

  • Molly

    A fascinating memoir of one woman's attempt to understand and connect with her own past, as well as the complicated past of Germany. It's well worth a read.

    I received access to this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Deanna (Deanna Reads Books)

    This review was originally posted on my review blog

    This graphic memoir is a really deep and poignant look at one's self. It's a really heavy topic, but I found it awesome to experience Nora's journey of self-discovery cool to be done in the graphic medium. I also loved that it wasn't a typical graphic novel. The book was drawn as if written in a notebook, and there were even real photos put into it to make it feel more real. One page might have a real photo of her grandfather

    This review was originally posted on my review blog

    This graphic memoir is a really deep and poignant look at one's self. It's a really heavy topic, but I found it awesome to experience Nora's journey of self-discovery cool to be done in the graphic medium. I also loved that it wasn't a typical graphic novel. The book was drawn as if written in a notebook, and there were even real photos put into it to make it feel more real. One page might have a real photo of her grandfather in a german uniform, and the next page was a little illustration of the people in the town. It kind of hit you with the truth suddenly. I do want to post a warning though, some of the images early on were a little too much to handle. We are dealing with WWII in Nazi Germany, so there are some horrific images there. So just be mindful of that if that could be a trigger, or just something you wouldn't want to see in a book.

    Nora's memoir is really fascinating to me, because it really looks at war and how it shapes a country. Does the war ever really leave a country? What the Nazis did was really truly terrible, and Nora has known that her entire life. She feels like she has been shamed so much by her country's past that to be patriotic in any shape is bad, and she doesn't really know where she belongs. I really felt for her when she mentions people would do the Hitler Salute to her in jest when they found out she was German. That was just so cruel. Since she feels this way, she decides to find out just what exactly her family did during the war. War shapes everyone it touches, even after it's been long gone. It changes a country, it changes a landscape, and in Nora's experience it feel like Germany is still dealing with what their ancestors did.

    It's hard to read about what happened in Germany to both the Jews and the Germany people. Nora sets out to really find the truth about what her family did in what seems like a way to absolve her of her guilt. I don't think in the end that isn't really the point of her doing this. She just wants to have the answers to all her questions. She just wants to know what really happened. It won't make her feel better, but it will make her understand her family and herself. I think the point of her story is really the journey, and not what she ends up finding.

    I feel like I can't say much more about this book without giving more of it away. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this one was a really in depth look at how history and culture can really affect a family for years. I'm really glad I read this one.

    *I received a free egalley copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  • Bruce Katz

    I’m not sure how to rate a book like this, what kinds of criteria to use. The author, a German expatriate married to a Jewish husband, has created a strikingly original work — a chimera — of enormous power, grace, and courage. Drawings, photographs, documents, and words are brought together in such a way as to capture the emotional complexity of her quest to discover her family’s lives (and, to a very real extent, the lives of other Germans) during the Nazi years, both before and during the war.

    I’m not sure how to rate a book like this, what kinds of criteria to use. The author, a German expatriate married to a Jewish husband, has created a strikingly original work — a chimera — of enormous power, grace, and courage. Drawings, photographs, documents, and words are brought together in such a way as to capture the emotional complexity of her quest to discover her family’s lives (and, to a very real extent, the lives of other Germans) during the Nazi years, both before and during the war. These grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins — Were they aware of what was going on? Did they choose to be oblivious? Were they participants? Bystanders, soldiers, opponents of the regime? Krug held nothing back in her search to understand, and she withholds nothing from the reader: not the anxiety, uncertainty, guilt, hope, sadness, and doubt.

    I can’t begin to understand how the mixture of text and illustration had such a profound effect on me. As I said, I don’t know what standards to use in rating the book. In the end, what I relied upon was how eager I was each day to pick up the book so I could resume where I left off. So I could share at a distance the extraordinary journey Nora Krug took.

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