Belonging, Krug’s new visual memoir, is a mazy and ingenious reckoning with the past. Born three decades after the Holocaust, she traces the stubborn silences in German life and investigates her own family’s role in the war. The book takes the form of an overstuffed scrapbook, jammed with letters, photographs, official documents and fragments from her uncle’s childhood journals — doodles of flowers, flags and swastikas ... The wisdom of this book is that it does not claim to [wash away stains or mend scars]. The notion of 'consolation' is one I suspect Krug would regard with suspicion. What she seems in pursuit of is a better quality of guilt.
Pick up Nora Krug's reverberant graphic memoir, Belonging, and be prepared to lose yourself for hours ... In its searching honesty and multi-layered, visual and verbal storytelling, it packs the power of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and David Small's Stitches ... Belonging is both emotionally and graphically complex. It is richly illustrated with cartoons, family photographs and letters, handwritten text, and archival German documents annotated in English by Krug. Her uncle's school essays, which are filled with ugly anti-Semitic propaganda, are disturbing, as are flea market finds like Hitler Youth toys that include a nasty caricature of a Jew. There's a lot to take in, and with its scrapbook abundance, the book can be visually challenging—particularly when Krug deliberately fades her lettering to express hollowed out feelings. But it's endlessly absorbing, and you wouldn't want to read this book in the dark anyway: Stark reminders of Nazism's brutality are haunting ... Krug balances this terrible history with bucolic scenes of the German countryside, and a running feature titled 'From the notebook of a homesick émigré,' which flags iconic practical and comforting German items that she misses, but can only go so far to salve wounds ... Krug writes about mending and reparations, but she doesn't let herself—or readers—lapse into complacence.
In her profound and dense illustrated memoir Belonging: A German Reckons With History And Home, illustrator Nora Krug examines her national identity and her family’s history to try to explain why Germans are the way they are by delving into the Hitler-era questions she has about her own family ... It’s to our benefit that Krug gives herself so fully to her research, and her ability to spin the facts around real emotion and insight concocts a history both personal and sweeping and thorough from each vantage point ... Krug’s book is as valuable as it is personable, a reminder that humans are the ones living through history and that their lives seldom live up to the binary demands of our right or wrong way of thinking.
Photos, pressed flowers, personal letters, historical documents, and her own illustrations and comics make up Krug’s mixed-media illustration style, with which she conveys significant emotion. Backgrounds and text are occasionally both so light or dark that her words are practically illegible text is often broken by illustrations in the center of the page, adding to the essentially fragmented nature of her search. A deep and affecting mix of text and illustration.
... a highly original and powerful graphic novel that works on many levels. There is Krug’s individual family story, which in turn exemplifies the wider story of ordinary life in Germany during the darkest moment in the country’s history and the decades that followed. On a broader level, the book is an unflinching examination of what we mean when we think of identity, of history and home ... In some ways this is all a familiar tale, one that has played out in various forms... But this is where the choice of the graphic form is so effective. The use of original material — from school reports and denazification forms to family photos and snippets of phone books — and powerful, sometimes playful drawings deliver a fresh and engaging perspective ... The result is a book that is as informative as a history and as touching as a novel.
In a remarkable series of panels, [Krug] depicts the various alternate choices he could have made in response to the difficult challenge he faced ... Krug's inquiry is relentless, and driven by a profound sense of mission ... Further to her credit, Krug's technique of spanning multiple generations allows her a usefully broad vantage ... Belonging impacts along two registers. On the one hand it produces a heart-wrenching sadness at the plight of the Europeans – Jewish and non-Jewish alike - whose lives were twisted and destroyed by fascism ... On the other hand, it generates a complex reckoning with the present, and with the question of historical responsibility and accountability. Krug achieves both these things through the intense subjectivity of her approach. Unlike works like last year's over-hyped Sabrina, which try to say clever things about the present through a sort of detached irony, Krug grabs the reader with both hands and bares her soul. The impact is far more visceral, intelligent and long-lasting, and leaves the reader with a far deeper and more troubled reflection on the intersection of past and present.
Krug... examines her past, present, and future as a German in this exquisitely illustrated and hand-lettered graphic novel ... A touching story of questioning the unquestionable and finding yourself in the process. Recommended for teens and adults as well as those interested in a highly visual family examination across generations.
Through illustrations, collages, and text, Krug reveals an increasingly comprehensive narrative of what was and what may have been ... Krug’s book is a worthwhile journey toward a deeper understanding of one's responsibility to repair what has been destroyed.
It’s to our benefit that Krug gives herself so fully to her research, and her ability to spin the facts around real emotion and insight concocts a history both personal and sweeping and thorough from each vantage point ... Krug also incorporates photos and actual documents into the book, and that supplies a firm footprint in the real world that blends well with her artwork and handwriting ... Krug’s book is as valuable as it is personable.
...while Belonging records Krug’s quest for belonging and identity, it ironically disrupts these categories regarding the book’s own relation to the comics medium ... Such a disruption coincides with Krug’s intriguing and haunting conclusion on the nature of heimat in Belonging’s epilogue ... I have never enjoyed literary graphic memoirs. Nonetheless, Belonging proved a compelling read. Krug’s personal reflections and visually compelling style produce an intriguing memoir.
The narrative is a deeply personal—and deeply moving—dive into national legacy and family history, with more text than most graphic novels and a graphic presentation that mixes documentary photographs, illustrations, and memories that predate the author’s birth ... As multilayered as memory, the book intertwines text, photo, graphic art, and thematic complexity into a revelation almost as powerful for readers as it must have been for the author.
The resulting scrapbook collage is as lush as it is meticulous, containing folk-art-style depictions of historical events, realistic illustrations, and photographs ... Like most obsessions, Krug’s yields limited results; some facts remain unknowable and some deeds irredeemable. But this work of stunning craftsmanship stands as a testament to speaking out as a necessary first step to healing.