Alice Bota, Khuê Pham and Özlem Topçu recently presented their book “We, the New Germans: Who We Are and What We Want” at the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. The three women, all journalists for the newspaper Die Zeit, discussed with one hundred guests what it means to be German in the 21st century. Before the event we asked the three authors a number of questions, including: “What inspired you to write this book?” They responded:
“We three are colleagues. We are political editors. And we are children of foreigners. But we find that despite being quite different, we share an outrage at those who would like to tell us who we are. By writing this book, we wanted to voice our concern, claim our identities and share our families’ stories. We wanted to demonstrate that immigrants’ stories are not necessarily about failure, and that broken and mixed family histories can in fact lead to personal success.”
Published in 2012, the book received positive reviews and considerable attention. Anna Reimann, for instance, summed up the book for Spiegel online, arguing:
“’We, the New Germans’ shows that the authors’ ‘hybrid identity’ – which is how they describe their experience between two countries – may, at times, make life more difficult, but also drives them to reflect on themselves and on others, to take more of a stance, to have more of an attitude.”
In light of the media’s response, we asked them whether they had chosen to leave something out of the book, and if yes, what.
“We didn’t want to write another book on immigrants about integration, racism, birth rates, and literacy problems. We wanted to describe a feeling of alienation that’s shaping a young new generation of immigrant children.”
The book presentation for “We, the New Germans: Who We Are and What We Want” was the second event in the series “New German Stories.” Focusing on individual biographies, the series will examine Germany’s history and present-day status as an immigration society.
Considering the series’s title, we asked the authors: “Why is your story a ‘new German story’?”
“Because we grew up here. We’re German. But since our parents are foreigners and large parts of our families live abroad, we represent something else too, something new. So our story is a new German story.”
This series takes as its point of departure the fact that the experiences of 20% of Germany’s population, that with a so-called immigration background, are under-represented in the public historical consciousness. We want to change this, among others with our next event, on 20 March 2014, which will introduce the book “InderKinder. On Growing up and Living in Germany.”
Yasemin Shooman, Academy programs on Migration and Diversity