Opa Nobody

Opa Nobody

by Sonya Huber
     
 

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It had come to this: breastfeeding her screaming three-month-old while sitting on the cigarette-scarred floor of a union hall, lying to her husband so she could attend yet another activist meeting, and otherwise actively self-destructing. Then Sonya Huber turned to her long-dead grandfather, the family “nobody,” for help.
 
Huber’s…  See more details below

Overview


It had come to this: breastfeeding her screaming three-month-old while sitting on the cigarette-scarred floor of a union hall, lying to her husband so she could attend yet another activist meeting, and otherwise actively self-destructing. Then Sonya Huber turned to her long-dead grandfather, the family “nobody,” for help.
 
Huber’s search for meaning and resonance in the life of her grandfather Heina Buschman was unusual insofar as she knew him only through dismissive family stories: He let his wife die of neglect . . . he used his infant son as a decoy when transporting anti-Nazi literature in a baby carriage . . . and so the stories went. What she actually discovered was that, like his granddaughter, Heina Buschman was a committed and beleaguered activist whose story echoed her own. Huber’s research not only conjured her grandfather’s voice in answer to many of the questions that troubled her but also found in his story a source of personal sustenance for herself. Based on extensive research and documentation, this story of Heina Buschman offers a rare look into the heart of the “average” socialist trying to survive the Nazis and rebuild a broken world. Alternating with his voice is Huber’s own, providing a rich and moving counterpoint that makes this deeply personal exploration of family, politics, and individual responsibility a story for all of us and for all time.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Political activist Huber (Writing and Linguistics/Georgia Southern Univ.) combines original research, historical fiction and personal recollections in her attempt to connect with the anti-Nazi grandfather she never met. Seeking an example of those who balanced activism, career and family as she struggled to do, the author traveled to the Ruhr region to study the life of her maternal grandfather-"Opa" in German-Heinrich (Heina) Buschmann Jr. Huber's mother once called him a "nobody," but he was in fact a tireless voice for the working class and a respected leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), a group caught between the extremes of Communism and Nazism. To discern this voice and "summon" her grandfather, Huber crafts fictional scenes from Heina's life, interspersing them with passages about her own parallel experiences. Heina hands out leaflets for a parliamentary election; Huber protests the Iraq War. Heina considers leaving the party his father helped build when it supports rearmament; Huber devastates her immigrant mother by quitting college and joining an anarchist group. These echoes are occasionally forced, and the disparity between consequences for activists in a brutal dictatorship and those in a free-speech democracy sometimes makes the author's examples seem trivializing. In addition to inhabiting Heina's thoughts, Huber sets herself a further challenge in striving to understand his brother, Jupp, who joined Hitler's elite guard, the SS. The narrative's tension is undermined when historical passages are directly succeeded by commentary identifying them as fabrication. Even so, sharp human insights on the omnipresent moral complications of living in Nazi Germany makethis a worthwhile read. Bumpy, but a unique, imaginative take on the family memoir.
The Christian Century

“Writing family history is a notoriously fraught enterprise. . . . Sonya Huber’s book of creative nonfiction, Opa Nobody, tracks an innovative course through this thorny landscape. . . . [I]t is precisely Huber’s play with the imaginative possibilities in the gaps between historical fact and family memory that makes her project so poetic and moving. . . . Through her admirably candid writing, Huber makes visible the inability of political activism to manage failure and despair.”—Valerie Weaver-Zercher, The Christian Century

— Valerie Weaver-Zercher

Bill Roorbach

Opa Nobody is a masterful layering of lives, a beautifully readable and often poetic tracing of the heart lines between grandfather and granddaughter, old leftie and new, Nazi-era German rabble-rouser and present-day American activist. Sonya Huber imagines her way into her hero’s childhood, his neighborhoods, his friendships, and finally into his passions—both political and romantic—which in the end are her own. The research in Opa Nobody is prodigious, the history fascinating, the quest for justice inspiring, but the lives here are what will keep you reading, page after page, long into the clamorous night.”

—Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream and Big Bend

Los Angeles Times

“In every chapter, [Huber] weaves stories of her activist life with richly imagined scenes of her grandfather, reconstructing his life from anecdotes and documentary evidence. . . . Most radically of all for a progressive activist, Huber embraces the past. Instead of tossing it all out in search of something new, she ties a firm knot between then and now.”—Los Angeles Times

 

— Karrie Higgins

Booklist

“Grounded in extensive research and enriched by family anecdotes. . . . The result is thoughtful discourse on political activism and the toll exacted from those dedicated to unpopular causes.”—Deborah Donovan, Booklist

— Deborah Donovan

Connect Statesboro

Opa Nobody is good, folks. . . . Fiction and nonfiction flow together so easily under Huber’s control that it looks easy to accomplish. . . . Opa Nobody is a masterful book and a testament to the talent of its author. After reading this, there will be many people impatient for Sonya Huber’s next work. I am.”—Conan Stuart, Connect Statesboro

— Conan Stuart

Lee Martin

“Sonya Huber is a writer of remarkable talent and courage. With great passion and skill, she resurrects her grandfather in this story of a family in the years leading up to and away from Hitler’s Third Reich. Painstakingly researched and richly imagined, Opa Nobody is a brave book of politics, history, and love—a book filled with an irrepressible embrace of humanity.”

—Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever and From Our House

Brenda Miller

“Sonya Huber begins her innovative memoir with a question: ‘Why try to change the world?’ Thus begins an intimate dialogue with her long-dead, activist grandfather—part fact, part imagination—that delves into the nature of political resistance and the toll this stance takes on those intrepid souls who dare to live on the edge of change.”

—Brenda Miller, author of Season of the Body and coauthor of Tell It Slant

Against the Current

“There’s plenty to learn from [Opa Nobody’s] accessible and accurate portrayal of a leftist German family before and during World War II. Its evocation of the sense of revolutionary possibility and political tumult is especially effective. . . . It reminds us that now more than ever, we need political histories that feed both our politics and our hearts.”—Chloe Tribich, Against the Current (Detroit)

 

— Chloe Tribich

Los Angeles Times - Karrie Higgins

“In every chapter, [Huber] weaves stories of her activist life with richly imagined scenes of her grandfather, reconstructing his life from anecdotes and documentary evidence. . . . Most radically of all for a progressive activist, Huber embraces the past. Instead of tossing it all out in search of something new, she ties a firm knot between then and now.”—Los Angeles Times

 

The Christian Century - Valerie Weaver-Zercher

“Writing family history is a notoriously fraught enterprise. . . . Sonya Huber’s book of creative nonfiction, Opa Nobody, tracks an innovative course through this thorny landscape. . . . [I]t is precisely Huber’s play with the imaginative possibilities in the gaps between historical fact and family memory that makes her project so poetic and moving. . . . Through her admirably candid writing, Huber makes visible the inability of political activism to manage failure and despair.”—Valerie Weaver-Zercher, The Christian Century

Booklist - Deborah Donovan

“Grounded in extensive research and enriched by family anecdotes. . . . The result is thoughtful discourse on political activism and the toll exacted from those dedicated to unpopular causes.”—Deborah Donovan, Booklist

Connect Statesboro - Conan Stuart

Opa Nobody is good, folks. . . . Fiction and nonfiction flow together so easily under Huber’s control that it looks easy to accomplish. . . . Opa Nobody is a masterful book and a testament to the talent of its author. After reading this, there will be many people impatient for Sonya Huber’s next work. I am.”—Conan Stuart, Connect Statesboro

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803216235
Publisher:
University of Nebraska Press
Publication date:
03/01/2008
Series:
American Lives
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author


Sonya Huber is an assistant professor in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University. She is the author of many short stories, essays, and poems.

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