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The Face of Exile
Autobiographical Journeys
Judith M. Melton
University of Iowa Press, 1998
The rise of fascism in Europe created a body of works by authors for whom the choice of exile became the defining event in their lives, autobiographers who recounted terrifying stories of incarceration, flight, survival, and integration into a new culture. In The Face of Exile, Judith Melton offers a powerful and empathetic analysis of the autobiographies written by these unwilling participants in the social upheaval created by Hitler's war on Europe.
In The Face of Exile, Judith Melton first focuses on the disrupted lives revealed in early memoirs by such self-defined witnesses of history as Lion Feuchtwanger, Georg Grosz, and Yehuda Nir, emphasizing that their personal stories provide the modern reader with insight into the subjective responses to the crisis of going into exile. Given the traumatic nature of the experiences involved, Melton preserves an admirable balance between critical objectivity and sympathy in analyzing the lives of these suffering writers.
In the second and longer part, Melton situates exile autobiography within the appropriate critical theories before concentrating on the consistent themes of exile autobiography: loss, disruption, and reintegration; she examines psychological expressions of exile—often written years later—that seek to reconstitute a self fractured by the psychic and physical shocks of exile. Drawing on an amazingly diverse body of works, she shows how nostalgia for childhood (Vladimir Nabokov and Eva Hoffman), intellectual responses (Czeslaw Milosz and Thomas Mann), and spiritual meditations (Mircea Eliade) become major influences on exile autobiography.
The Face of Exile is a significant and validating examination of the cultural, psychological, and historical dimensions of exile autobiography. Clearly and compellingly, Judith Melton reveals the voices and concepts behind this important twentieth-century literature that has become a metaphor for alienation in our time.
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Facing Racial Revolution
Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection
Jeremy D. Popkin
University of Chicago Press, 2008
The only truly successful slave uprising in the Atlantic world, the Haitian Revolution gave birth to the first independent black republic of the modern era. Inspired by the revolution that had recently roiled their French rulers, black slaves and people of mixed race alike rose up against their oppressors in a bloody insurrection that led to the burning of the colony’s largest city, a bitter struggle against Napoleon’s troops, and in 1804, the founding of a free nation.

Numerous firsthand narratives of these events survived, but their invaluable insights into the period have long languished in obscurity—until now. In Facing Racial Revolution, Jeremy D. Popkin unearths these documents and presents excerpts from more than a dozen accounts written by white colonists trying to come to grips with a world that had suddenly disintegrated. These dramatic writings give us our most direct portrayal of the actions of the revolutionaries, vividly depicting encounters with the uprising’s leaders—Toussaint Louverture, Boukman, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines—as well as putting faces on many of the anonymous participants in this epochal moment. Popkin’s expert commentary on each selection provides the necessary background about the authors and the incidents they describe, while also addressing the complex question of the witnesses’ reliability and urging the reader to consider the implications of the narrators’ perspectives.

Along with the American and French revolutions, the birth of Haiti helped shape the modern world. The powerful, moving, and sometimes troubling testimonies collected in Facing Racial Revolution significantly expand our understanding of this momentous event.
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False Papers
DECEPTION AND SURVIVAL IN THE HOLOCAUST
Robert Melson
University of Illinois Press, 2000
False Papers is the astounding story of a Jewish family who survived the Holocaust by living in the open. By sheer chutzpah and bravado, Robert Melson's mother acquired the identity papers that would disguise herself, her husband, and her son for the duration of the war. Always operating under the theory that one needed to be seen in order not to be noticed, the Mendelsohns became not just ordinary Polish Catholics, but the Zamojskis, a Polish family of noble lineage.
Armed with their new lives and their new pasts, the Count and Countess Zamojski and their son, Count Bobi, took shelter in the very shadow of the Nazi machine, hiding day after day in plain sight behind a façade of elegant good manners and cultivated self-assurance, even arrogance: "you had to shout [the Gestapo] down or they would kill you." Melson's father took advantage of his flawless German to build a lucrative business career while working for a German businessman of the Schindler type. The Zamojskis acquired beautiful homes in the German quarter of Krakow and in Prague, where they had maids and entertained Nazi officials. Their masquerade enabled them to save not only themselves and their son but also an uncle and three Jewish women, one of whom became part of the family.
False Papers is a candid, sometimes funny account of a stylish couple who dazzled the Nazis with flamboyant theatrics then gradually, tragically fell apart after the war. Particularly arresting is Melson himself, who was just a child when his family embarked on their grand charade. A resilient boy who had to negotiate bewildering shifts of identify–-now Catholic, now Jewish; now European aristocrat, now penniless refugee who becomes an American college student--Melson closes each chapter of his parents' recollections with his childhood perceptions of the same events.
Against the totalizing, flattening, unrelenting Nazi behemoth, Melson says, "I wished to pit our very bodies, our quirky, sexy, funny, wicked, frail, ordinary selves." By balancing the adults' maneuvering with the perspective of a child, Melson crafts an account of the Holocaust that is at once poignant, entertaining, and troubling.
 
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Fiery Trail
A Union Officer'S Account Sherman'S Last Campaign
Richard Harwwell
University of Tennessee Press, 1986

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A Final Reckoning
A Hannover Family's Life and Death in the Shoah
Ruth Gutmann, Foreword by Kenneth Waltzer
University of Alabama Press, 2013
A work of both childhood memory and adult reflection undergirded with scholarly research

Ruth Herskovits Gutmann’s powerful memoir recounts her life not only as a concentration camp inmate and survivor, but also as a sister and daughter. Born in 1928, Gutmann and her twin sister, Eva, escaped the growing Nazi threat in Germany on a Kindertransport to Holland in 1939
.
Gutmann’s compelling story captures many facets of the Jewish experience in Nazi Germany. She describes her early life in Hannover as the daughter of a prominent and patriotic member of the Jewish community. Her flight on the Kindertransport offers a vivid, firsthand account of that effort to save the children of Jewish families. Her memories of the camps include coming to the attention of Josef Mengele, who often used twins in human experiments. Gutmann writes with moving clarity and nuance about the complex feelings of survivorship.

A Final Reckoning provides not only insights into Gutmann’s own experience as a child in the midst of the atrocities of the Holocaust, but also a window into the lives of those, like her father, who were forced to carry on and comply with the regime that would ultimately bring about their demise.
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The Folly and the Madness
The Civil War Letters of Captain Orlando S. Palmer, Fifteenth Arkansas Infantry
Thomas W. Cutrer
University of Tennessee Press, 2023
With a closeness perhaps unique to siblings orphaned young, Orlando and Artimisia “Missie” Palmer exchanged intimate letters throughout their lives. These letters (interspersed with additional letters from Oliver Kennedy, the Palmers’ first cousin) offer a clear and entertaining window into the life and times of a junior Confederate officer serving in the Western Theater of the Civil War.

Though he initially felt Americans would see “the folly and the madness” of going to war, Orlando enlisted as a private in what would become Company H of the First (later Fifteenth) Arkansas Infantry, informing his sister that he had volunteered “not for position, not for a name, but from patriotic motivation.” However, he was ambitious enough to secure an appointment as Maj. Gen. William Joseph Hardee’s personal secretary; he then rose to become his regiment’s sergeant major, his company’s first lieutenant, and later captain and brigade adjutant. Soldier letters typically report only what can be observed at the company level, but Palmer’s high-ranking position offers a unique view of strategic rather than tactical operations.

Palmer’s letters are not all related to his military experience, though, and the narrative is enhanced by his nuanced reflections on courtship customs and personal relationships. For instance, Palmer frequently attempts to entertain Missie with witticisms and tales of his active romantic life: “We have so much to do,” he quips, “that we have no time to do anything save to visit the women.   I am in love with several dozen of them and am having
a huge time generally.”

The Folly and the Madness adds depth to the genre of Civil War correspondence and provides a window into the lives of ordinary southerners at an extraordinary time.
 
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For Duty and Destiny
The Life and Civil War Diary of William Taylor Stott, Hoosier Soldier and Educator
Lloyd A. Hunter
Indiana Historical Society Press, 2011
William Taylor Stott was a native Hoosier and an 1861 graduate of Franklin College, who later became the president who took the college from virtual bankruptcy in 1872 to its place as a leading liberal arts institution in Indiana. The story of Franklin College is the story of W. T. Stott, yet his influence was not confined to the school’s parameters. Stott was an inspirational and intellectual force in the Indiana Baptist community, and a foremost champion of small denominational colleges and of higher education in general. He also fought in the Eighteenth Indiana Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, rising from private to captain by 1863. Stott’s diary reveals a soldier who was also a scholar.
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Fortress of My Youth
Memoir of a Terezín Survivor
Jana Renée Friesová
University of Wisconsin Press, 2011

Jana Renée Friesová was fifteen when she was imprisoned by the Nazis in the Czech ghetto town of Terezín. Her memoir tells the poignantly familiar story of a young girl who, even under the most abominable circumstances, engages in intense adolescent friendships, worries with her companions over her looks, and falls in love.
Anne Frank’s diary ends with deportation to a concentration camp; Fortress of My Youth, in contrast, takes the reader deep into the horrors of daily life in a camp that were faced by a young girl and her family. But Friesová also tells of love, joy, sacrifice, and the people who shared in the most profound experiences of her life.

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Freedom's Witness
The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner
Jean Lee Cole
West Virginia University Press, 2013
In a series of columns published in the African American newspaper The Christian Recorder, the young, charismatic preacher Henry McNeal Turner described his experience of the Civil War, first from the perspective of a civilian observer in Washington, D.C., and later, as one of the Union army’s first black chaplains.
 
In the halls of Congress, Turner witnessed the debates surrounding emancipation and black enlistment. As army chaplain, Turner dodged “grape” and cannon, comforted the sick and wounded, and settled disputes between white southerners and their former slaves. He was dismayed by the destruction left by Sherman’s army in the Carolinas, but buoyed by the bravery displayed by black soldiers in battle. After the war ended, he helped establish churches and schools for the freedmen, who previously had been prohibited from attending either.
 
Throughout his columns, Turner evinces his firm belief in the absolute equality of blacks with whites, and insists on civil rights for all black citizens. In vivid, detailed prose, laced with a combination of trenchant commentary and self-deprecating humor, Turner established himself as more than an observer: he became a distinctive and authoritative voice for the black community, and a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal church. After Reconstruction failed, Turner became disillusioned with the American dream and became a vocal advocate of black emigration to Africa, prefiguring black nationalists such as Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. Here, however, we see Turner’s youthful exuberance and optimism, and his open-eyed wonder at the momentous changes taking place in American society.
 
Well-known in his day, Turner has been relegated to the fringes of African American history, in large part because neither his views nor the forms in which he expressed them were recognized by either the black or white elite. With an introduction by Jean Lee Cole and a foreword by Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Freedom’s Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner restores this important figure to the historical and literary record.

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From the Ashes of Sobibor
A Story of Survival
Thomas Toivi Blatt, Foreward by Christopher R. Browning
Northwestern University Press, 1997
From the Ashes of Sobibor: A Story of Survival is an invaluable, firsthand account of a child's survival in a Nazi concentration camp in Poland during World War II. When the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Thomas Toivi Blatt was twelve years old. He and his family lived in the largely Jewish town of Izbica in the Lublin district of Poland—the district that was to become the site of three major Nazi extermination camps: Belzec, Sobibor, and Majdanek. Blatt tells of the chilling events that led to his deportation to Sobibor, and of the six months he spent there before taking part in the now-famous uprising and mass breakout. Blatt's tale of escape, and of the five harrowing years spent eluding both the Nazis and anti-Semitic Polish nationalists, is gripping account of resilience and survival.

This edition also includes the author's interview with Karl Frenzel, a former Nazi commandant at Sobibor.
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From Thorns to Blossoms
A Japanese American Family in War and Peace
Mitzi Asai Loftus
Oregon State University Press, 2024

Mitsuko “Mitzi” Asai was not yet ten years old in the spring of 1942 when President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 sent 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry—about two-thirds of them US citizens—from their homes on the West Coast to inland prison camps. They included Mitzi and most of her family, who owned a fruit orchard in Hood River, Oregon. The Asais spent much of World War II in the camps while two of the older sons served in the Pacific in the US Army. Three years later, when the camps began to close, the family returned to Hood River to find an altered community. Shop owners refused to serve neighbors they had known for decades; racism and hostility were open and largely unchecked. Humiliation and shame drove teenaged Mitzi to reject her Japanese heritage, including her birth name. More than a decade later, her life took another turn when a Fulbright grant sent her to teach in Japan, where she reconnected with her roots.

In From Thorns to Blossoms, Mitzi recounts her rich and varied life, from a childhood surrounded by barbed wire and hatred to a successful career as a high school English teacher and college instructor in English as a Second Language. Today, Asai descendants continue to tend the Hood River farm while the town confronts its shameful history. Originally published in 1990 as Made in Japan and Settled in Oregon, this revised and expanded edition describes the positive influence Mitzi’s immigrant parents had on their children, provides additional context for her story, and illuminates the personal side of a dark chapter in US history. It’s the remarkable story of a transformation from thorns into blossoms, pain into healing.

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