I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Family secrets are toxic.
Everyone wants to know who they are. I think the question is especially keen for adopted children—who are my people and why am I not with them?
What if the answer to that question brought unbelievable turmoil?
Jennifer Teege is a grown woman with children of her own, part of a loving adoptive family. Despite this, in her late thirties, she is struggling with depression. While in the library’s psychology section, looking for books on depression, she happens to pick up a little red book. On the cover, she sees a photo of a woman who looks an awful lot like her biological mother. She reads the dust jacket—and it is her biological mother, talking about being the daughter of the concentration camp commandant, Amon Goethe. If you’ve seen Schindler’s List, you’ll know of him. Jennifer’s world is torn apart at that moment.
Ms. Teege is a Nigerian-German woman, but looking at the photos of her and of her infamous grandfather, you can see distinct resemblances. Ironically, in her twenties she lived in Israel and did her university degree in Tel Aviv. She speaks Hebrew well and has many Israeli friends. And suddenly, she is afraid of who she really is.
This memoir covers her struggle to come to terms with her heritage and family genetics. It is wrenching and yet encouraging to see her face the situation, despite her depression, and figure out what it all means to her. It also displays the pain and turmoil caused to German citizens when their past is denied or ignored.
If you read this book, I would also encourage you to read Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which is a testament to the psychic damage done to Jews during World War II. Children of both Nazis and Jews have suffered from the silence of their parents and it seems to be the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will finally be able to speak the truth for all to hear.