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Fern

The Forgotten Children

World news spotlighted another heartbreaking story of child immigration this week. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to thousands of British who were shipped to Australia as children. They were promised a better life; instead, they had a Dickensian existence. More than 500,000 children were placed in foster homes, orphanages and other institutions during the 20th century, according to a 2004 Australian Senate report. Many experienced emotional, physical and sexual ...

When does childhood end…

...and when does adulthood begin? • Nineteen-year-olds can drive tanks in Afghanistan, but they aren’t considered responsible enough to drive a rental car. • Courts treat 13-year-olds as adults, yet they cannot rent adult DVDs. • Executing convicts for offenses committed before age 18 is unconstitutional. • In Judaism, a boy becomes a man (the bar mitzvah) at 13. “For drinking, driving, fighting in the military, compulsory schooling, watching an ...

An apple for teachers

Last Friday, I gave seven back-to-back presentations to students at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Illinois. Whenever I spend a day teaching, I rediscover that the occupation is grueling and exhausting, but deeply satisfying. Next time I walk a mile, or I should say, run a marathon as a teacher, I’ll remember that those are big shoes to fill…and they are high heels.

Art informs life

When I was writing Motherland, I relied on notes for all the chapters except one. For that chapter, I had taped an interview with a key source and, when I sat down to write it, I listened carefully to the tape and captured what I heard. "What happened to you?" my agent asked upon reading that chapter. "This doesn't work at all? What happened to your voice?" I explained that ...

Stockstadt am Rhein: On the map

Once, when I was eight years old, my mother raised a subject she had never discussed before – her hometown. “I’m from Stockstadt am Rhein.” “Where?” The town’s name was foreign, but the way she said it, with a thick German accent, revealed a part of her I never knew existed. She went to the shelf, dragged the oversized, heavy Rand McNally Atlas of the World to the kitchen table ...

Fishing for readers

For authors, publishing a book is a little like dropping a fishing line into a pond. We never know who will take our bait. When I wrote Motherland, I imagined telling the story to a good friend whom I have known for decades. I wished she could have come with me on my trips to Germany. Instead, I tried to give her the experience through the book. I couldn’t have ...
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