A Story of German Heritage

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This book will be featured as the March 14, 2019, Presbyterian Readers book choice. The discussion is bound to add insights on struggles from the past, as captured in this story, which often lends discernment to the struggles of today.

Jennifer Noble graduated with a Corporate Communications major and has written locally for “Etc. for Her” as well as Sioux Falls charities such as the Ronald McDonald House. In addition, two of her stories are published in compilations, “I’m Glad I’m a Mom” (Harvest House) and “God Still Meets Needs” (CreateSpace).  She is the Communications Manager at First Presbyterian Church.


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With the New Year being a time where goals are set and winter settles in, consider one or more of the following selections and join the Presbyterian Readers for an evening of discussion.

  • FEBRUARY 14 – “The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn” by Mark Twain

Discussion Leader: Linda Rasmussen

  • MARCH 14 – “Secrets She Kept” by Cathy Gohlke

Discussion Leader: Christie Stevens

  • APRIL 11 – “Letters From Yellowstone” by Diane Smith

Discussion Leader: Claudia Kapp

  • MAY 9 – “Glory Over Everything” by Kathleen Grissom (Potluck Meal)

    Books that make the Presbyterian Readers list are selected by end of summer.   Book Club participants summarized the following TOP THREE REASONS why you should consider joining a discussion group: 

    Presbyterian Reader “REASONS WHY”

1)      The process of choosing books gives readers a variety to research and discover general themes and topics of several books. “The list may start of upwards of thirty or more books as they explore recommendations together,” says Gina Pfeiffer. With the final list of nine, some titles readers may pursue independently if they decide they want to add them to their personal reading lists.

2)      For September, the book follows the choice of the South Dakota Humanities Council. Since 2003, the OBSD program has encouraged people across South Dakota to read and discuss the same book through the year. For more information on this program, the details are at http://sdhumanities.org/programs-and-events/obsd/.  “This is usually a highlight for the group as people from the community join together to discuss a book of interest,” shares Judy Rops.

 

By Jennifer Noble

A small Swastika on the cover of “Secrets She Kept,” along with details on the back describing this story as “crying out to be told,” made the title by Cathy Gohlke one I wanted to read and explore as part of the Presbyterian Readers’ selections for the year.

The summary gives a short synopsis of the two main characters. It reads, “All her life, Hannah Sterling yearned for a closer relationship with her estranged mother. But when death closes that door, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of Lieslotte’s past and is shocked to discover she has a grandfather still living in Germany. Both Hannah and Lieslotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Berlin to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartime secrets of his own. Longing for connection yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past…and how their legacy will shape their future.”

Hannah’s dissonance in her relationships is evident in the beginning as she struggles to take work leave to sort through the loss of her mother. Her recollections of Lieslotte included a few associations of her giving food donations to strangers she would meet, yet seemingly neglecting her relationship with her daughter. Beings Hannah’s story is unfolding in the early 1970’s, this brought me back to my own family.  My mother graduated high school in 1976, and if she were to explore her family origins at this time, this gave me a comparison to parallel with this span of history.

Beings Lieslotte was coming of age in Germany at the time of a growing national conflict and change, this was a unique perspective, and the first story I’d read from a female’s experience through the crisis. With discovering Hannah’s German heritage as a thematic thread through book, it surfaced questions stemming from my father’s side of the family.  I had previously read my inch-and-a-half “Radig Family” of Wisconsin, Iowa and California compilation, but did not explore it with considerations of how World War II would have affected my grandfather, for example.

 
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As one may imagine, the perspectives from these family chronicles suddenly awakened my heritage in new ways. My dad’s father Wilfred passed away when I was four years old, but I found his parents were married in 1911, and his mother Emma spoke “High German” and her husband Alex spoke “Low German.” My grandfather spoke a mixture of both when he started school in Iowa.  He and his older brother had to work on their English language in school, and his parents hosted his teacher in their home. Beings World War II was from 1939 to 1945, I wondered how his experiences would have been in respect to the culture at the time. He actually married my grandmother in 1941, so he had been an American farm boy into his mid-twenties before this conflict became a reality.

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However, his disdain for school is something that lingered, perhaps creating a personal barrier in relationships, and later he experienced a lack of connection in communicating with his family, which may have been partly rooted in the cultural trauma he experienced. With these discoveries, gratitude surfaced for the spur “Secrets She Kept” gave me in further exploring the Radig family history. Similarly, at the end of Gohlke’s book in the Note to Readers, Gohlke says, “It is the story of our fallen human nature. Numbers 14:18 reminds us, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will be no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generation.” What Hannah discovers shocks her, undermining her confidence in herself and her family, and in her ability to discern truth and goodness in others.

This book will be featured as the March 14, 2019, Presbyterian Readers book choice. The discussion is bound to add insights on struggles from the past, as captured in this story, which often lends discernment to the struggles of today.

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 3)      Leader of the group Linda Rasmussen understands differing opinions and thoughts when it comes to stories and authors. She says, “We don’t always agree if we like the book or not, but it makes for an interesting discussion.” The group has a different facilitator for the book each month, and they may explore praises and critiques of the writers, as well as research other work or include movie versions or made for TV. 

With the New Year being a time where goals are set and winter settles in, consider one or more of the following selections and join the Presbyterian Readers for an evening of discussion.  To confirm the details, connect with the church office – all are welcome.