Sunday, March 20, 2011

After the Wall: Confessions from an East German Childhood and the Life that Came Next

by Jana Hensel
New York: Public Affairs, 2004
Audience: Grade 7 +
Jana Hensel was born in Leipzig, East Germany in 1976. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall falls and Germany is reunified. Thirteen-year-old Jana and her friends are excited about the new things that western culture brings: magazines, trendy clothes, American music. Her high-school class is even the first to follow a new western curriculum. But how far will Jana and her friends and family go to “fit in” to their new lives? As Jana becomes more assimilated into western culture, she reflects upon what was lost by East Germans after the wall fell.
One of the most interesting aspects of this memoir, apart from Jana’s own experiences, are the observations of her parents and grandparents. Having lived so rigidly under such an oppressive rule for almost 60 years, these generations experience a high degree of culture shock when suddenly thrust into western life. Jana and her family have almost an immigration experience, even though they did not leave their country.
Berlin Wall, Germany 1986
Originally published under the title Zonenkinder (2002), After the Wall achieved huge success in Jana’s native Germany where the memories of East and West are still strong. Many tweens will identify with Jana’s experiences at age thirteen, an already confusing time for adolescents, when her world was turned upside down.

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