Following in the footsteps of a German family who, over the course of four generations, are drawn back and forth across the Atlantic.
FAMILY MATTERS follows the traces of a German family that, over generations, continues to cross the Atlantic in both directions. Like Elizabeth and Henry who, at the beginning of the 20th century, are forced to leave their beloved New York to return to the old country; the violinist Clara who can only live her passion for music in the American of the suffragettes; the war bride Toni, who courageously follows a G.I to Nebraksa after World War II; and, finally, the student Iris who is trying to find her place in both worlds in the 1980s.
Looking back, they all ask the same question: „What if . . . ?” What if they had not gone to America, or back to the old country? If they had not fallen in love? What if they had taken that other road and pursued their dreams a bit more forcefully?
FAMILY MATTERS takes ordinary, yet memorable characters out of the yellowed pictures in the photo albums, gives them a voice and places them in their own time. Martina J. Kohl revives the past. She shows that today cannot be understood without the yesterday. And that migration, uprooting and the search for belonging are universal themes.
“Martina Kohl, in her novel Family Matters, has woven generations of her German family into a web of memoir and fiction in an imaginative and original way. Based on photographs, letters, story - the characters and their colorful personalities become very real to us. In the process of storytelling, Martina Kohl provides a glimpse not only into her family’s past, but the conflicts faced by many Europeans trying to forge new lives in America. This book is a pleasure to read as it does not include one extra word! It is concise, thoughtful and marvelous.” —Mindy Weisel, artist and author of Daughters of Absence and After: The Obligation of Beauty
“[This] story is wonderfully good. Mysterious, deeply moving, and so well written!—
Will it surprise you if I say that I’m particularly fond of the very serious, very competent graduate student who decides that her future is in her own country?” —Louis Begley, author of Wartime Lies and the Schmidt Trilogy
“No one but Martina J. Kohl, uniquely positioned as a liaison between Germany and America, could have written this fabulous collection that links continents, eras, and lives. The eight stories, sprung from family lore, documents, and photographs, reach deep resonance through the power of Kohl’s reimagining. Her compassion and insight into her characters renders them unforgettable.” —Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs
“Not your typical immigration story. Instead, this accessible narrative explores the engagement and embrace or rejection of America by four generations of a German family. Along the way, we explore their differing perceptions and the diverse fates over more than a century of trans-Atlantic migration in both directions. This is a window not only into a family, but also to two countries over time and to the process of migration.” —Dr. David Goldfield, Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and editor of the Journal of Urban History
“Martina Kohl's captivating and deeply personal tale of the push and pull between the old world and new is rendered through a wonderfully vivid and finely-nuanced telling that we have the privilege of living through together with the family at its center. With an astute eye to the details that define each of these two distinct cultures, and doing so in a story that unfolds over the course of a century and no less, she weaves a narrative that is as memorable as it is moving. As a European-American with feet firmly rooted in the soil of each continent, the story rings unequivocally true—as it will for anyone who has come to know both sides of the Atlantic.” —Kelly Nyks, New York Times Best Seller and Emmy-nominated filmmaker of Requiem for the American Dream and The Age of Consequences
Martina J. Kohl worked in the Cultural Section of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany, for many years. She developed and organized numerous programs, but especially loved the literature series. Writing has been a passion ever since she taught at the University of Michigan. It is part of her seminars that she teaches regularly at Humboldt University Berlin and defined her work as editor of the American Studies Journal. As an advisory board member of the Salzburg Global American Studies Program, she continues to engage in transatlantic dialogue. Among her academic publications, FAMILY MATTERS is her first book- length fictional work.
Author City: Berlin GEW