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Growing up, what Sanford Tweedie knew about East Germany was basically . . . nothing. West Germans were our friends; East Germans, the enemy. In 2000, somewhat better informed, Tweedie took advantage of a Fulbright Scholarship to move his family to the eastern German town of Erfurt for the academic year. Far from home and the familiar, with temporary status and a tenuous grasp of the language, he and his wife were curious to see how they would function shorn of all the rules that governed their daily lives—housing, food acquisition, transportation, and even basic communication. As soon as their taxi delivered them to their grim tan and concrete Soviet-vintage apartment building, they knew their education had begun.
Learning about life in the former East Germany, amid the feverish embrace of Western culture and the tenacious legacy of a totalitarian past, Tweedie comes to understand the deeper cultural assumptions through which Americans view the larger world. Part travelogue, part history, part cultural critique, all thoroughly engrossing, the story of his yearlong experience is one of dislocation and accommodation, making a German town his own and now ours.
“Few Americans these days take the trouble to investigate a country about which they know less than they think. Sanford Tweedie has, and the result is a lucidly written and perceptive account of one family’s experience of a Germany that—though now united—is not yet as one.”—Michael Gorra, author of Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece