Reflections on the European Migrant Crisis—and a matter that lies at the heart of GOING OVER, on HuffPo

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Today, on HuffPo, I'm reflecting on the European Migrant Crisis—and on a primary theme, the Turkish guest workers, that sparked the writing of my Berlin Wall novel, Going Over (Chronicle Books).

The entire piece can be found here.

A brief excerpt, from the end of the piece, below:

When I set out to write my 1983 Berlin Wall novel, Going Over (Chronicle Books, 2014), I thought my research would primarily take me to the divided lives of those on either side of the wall. To the failed attempts at freedom. To the successful passages. To the lives of graffiti artists and stymied stargazers.

I found that. I wrote that. But there was something more, something bigger at the heart of this Berlin story -- the lives of the Turkish immigrants, those "guest workers," who had been called to West Berlin to help mitigate a rising labor problem in the wake of the war. Vaccinated, packed onto planes and trains, and redirected to worlds they couldn't foresee, these Turkish citizens left often-rural homes to become poorly paid semi-skilled laborers on German assembly lines. They were crammed into ghettoized apartments, left to their own societal devices, sometimes despised. Those who sought protection from German police -- women, mostly, seeking to escape abusive marriages or challenging conditions or threats of "honor" killings--were often foiled in their search for help. The Turkish immigrants were resident foreigners. They were a culture within a country, both separate and essential.

This Turkish story, it seemed to me, was as resonant, as relevant, as supremely timely as the story of walls and divisions and political strikes against family life. It contained lessons that even today disrupt ideas about German identity and about diversity -- anywhere, in any country. It had to be written about, to stand beside the better-known Wall story.

Those who are fleeing ravaged homes in Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere know only that which they are leaving. They cannot imagine what is next -- who will help them, who will open doors, who will allow them to maintain their dignity. As governments, agencies, and families all around the world watch the exodus in horror and with broken hearts, it becomes an urgent matter to also imagine what happens next.


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