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Opa Nobody (American Lives)by Sonya Huber
Synopses & Reviews
It had come to this: breastfeeding her screaming three-month-old while sitting on the cigarette-scarred floor of a union hall, lying to her husband so she could attend yet another activist meeting, and otherwise actively self-destructing. Then Sonya Huber turned to her long-dead grandfather, the family “nobody,” for help.
Hubers search for meaning and resonance in the life of her grandfather Heina Buschman was unusual insofar as she knew him only through dismissive family stories: He let his wife die of neglect . . . he used his infant son as a decoy when transporting anti-Nazi literature in a baby carriage . . . and so the stories went. What she actually discovered was that, like his granddaughter, Heina Buschman was a committed and beleaguered activist whose story echoed her own. Hubers research not only conjured her grandfathers voice in answer to many of the questions that troubled her but also found in his story a source of personal sustenance for herself. Based on extensive research and documentation, this story of Heina Buschman offers a rare look into the heart of the “average” socialist trying to survive the Nazis and rebuild a broken world. Alternating with his voice is Hubers own, providing a rich and moving counterpoint that makes this deeply personal exploration of family, politics, and individual responsibility a story for all of us and for all time.
When she was very young, Irene Kacandes knew things about her father that had no plot, no narrator, and no audience. To her childhood self these things resembled beings who resided with her family, like the ancestresses whoand#8217;d thrown themselves off cliffs rather than be taken by the Turks, or the forefathers whoand#8217;d fought the Trojans. For decades she thought of these cohabitants as Daddyand#8217;s War Experiences and tried to stay away from them. When tragedy touched the adult life she had constructed for herself, however, she realized she had to confront her familyand#8217;s wartime past.and#160;
Kacandes begins with what she did know: that her immigrant grandmother returned to Greece with four young childrenand#8212;and without her husbandand#8212;only to get trapped there by the Nazi occupation. Though still a child himself, her father, John, helped feed his younger siblings by taking up any task possible, including smuggling arms to the Resistance. Kacandes painstakingly uncovers a complex truth her father chose not to tell, a truth inextricably entwined with the Holocaust, discovering, too, a common but little-told story about how the telling of such memories is negotiated between survivors and their children. Daddyand#8217;s War brings new understanding to how trauma, like the revenge of Greek gods, can visit each generation and offers a model for breaking the cycle.
About the Author
Sonya Huber is an assistant professor in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University. She is the author of many short stories, essays, and poems.
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