Sunday, July 06, 2008

The family history of love...


I mentioned Friday I planned to read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss this weekend. I recommend the book to everyone. Krauss is a fabulous writer and I can't believe I didn't know about her before last week. About half way through the book, I realized how much family history played into the story line. And since there is a rain delay before Federer and Nadal take the court, I must share this tidbit.

At a certain point in the story, one of the characters, Alma Singer, befriends a Russian. Her mother responds, "Just Russian?" Alma doesn't understand until her mother explains.

"It's just that you for example, are one-quarter Russian, one-quarter Hungarian, one-quarter Polish and one-quarter German."

Fairly clean isn't it? Just wait. The story continues.

"Actually," she said, "you could say you're three quarters Polish and one-quarter Hungarian, since Bubbe's parents were from Poland before they moved to Nuremberg, and Grandma Sasha's town was originally in Belarus, or White Russia, before it become part of Poland."

In a few moments, her mother realizes something else. "I suppose you could also say you're three-quarters Polish and one-quarter Czech, because the town Zeyde came from was in Hungary before 1918, and in Czechoslovakia after, although the Hungarian continued to consider themselves Hungarian, and briefly even became Hungarian again during World War II. Of course, you could always say you're half Polish, one-quarter Hungarian, and one-quarter English, since Grandpa Simon left Poland and move to London when he was nine."

Her mother goes on to create 16 different pie charts which accurately reflects their ancestry. Alma reviews the charts and answers "I'M AMERICAN!" To which her brother responds, "No, you're not. You're Jewish." (pg. 85-87).

Ancestry and religion can be confusing. Perspective is everything. My own background is 100% German Russian, yet people I meet struggle to understand how my family lived in Russia for over 200 years and could not be Russian.

Then, the religious aspect affects ancestry, too. My father's side was Catholic, my mother's side Lutheran. With all of the religious issues in the world today, this difference seems minimal. However, religious concerns are part of what prompted my ancestors to move from the Germanic states in the 1760's. And, where did they move from? Now the land is part of Luxembourg and Germany, near the Moselle Lorraine region. From my limited study of the region, I can easily remember four major transitions in power and that does include the two World Wars.

Perspective is everything when understanding family history. It is a tangled maze of information to understand. It still behooves us to try to understand, because as I stated in earlier blogs, it is the story of how you became you. And, that is extremely worthwhile to discover.
This book offers inspiration for more things than family history. Check it out for yourself at

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