INVISIBLE WOMAN by Ika Hügel-Marshall


Growing Up Black in Germany
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An impassioned memoir of growing up black (or, strictly speaking, mulatto) in postwar Germany that is more a lyrical record of hurts endured and hard lessons learned than a factual accounting.

The author’s father, an African-American soldier named Eddie Marshal, left Germany before she was born in March 1947. Her mother and grandmother were both strong and loving women who always accepted her, but after her mother’s remarriage Ika became increasingly aware of being different from the rest of her family (which now included a white younger sister). She can forgive her family—her mother was publicly castigated for having a black child, and classmates taunted her sister—but she cannot forgive the German state. When Ika was five, social workers told her parents that, as a potential social misfit, she would be better off in a boarding school. Her mother reluctantly agreed, and thereafter Ika spent more than ten years in institutions, coming home only for brief holidays. The worst of the lot was run by a sadistic nun named Sister Hildegard, who made the young Ika undergo a terrifying “exorcism,” regularly beat her, and kept her in solitary confinement for long periods of time. The author survived, became a social worker after college, and married, but the marriage broke down—her husband was ashamed of her blackness, and Ika (even with her feminist friends) felt alienated from German society. Although early attempts to find her father failed, she was finally reunited with him and his family in the US in 1994. Now an American citizen, she at last feels she can be herself, comfortable with both her African and German heritage.

A searing indictment of racism and institutional violence by a survivor.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8264-1294-7
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Continuum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2000


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