Winner of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, a graphic memoir by award-winning artist Nora Krug, telling the story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history.
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.