How We Survive Here

How We Survive Here

by Claire Gebben


Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


As far back as Claire Gebben can remember, her grandmother wrote letters to the "relatives in Freinsheim," relatives living in a rural wine-making town in Germany. After her grandmother died, Claire's father and family kept the tradition alive, writing letters and emails, and also visiting the relatives in person. Then in 2008, when Claire's relative Angela Weber travels from Germany to visit her in the Pacific Northwest, Angela brings along a surprise--over a dozen 19th-century letters found in an attic in Freinsheim written by their common ancestors.

As the two set out to translate the Old German Script, Claire and Angela become captivated by the stories, and the immigrants' impressions of the New World. That same fall, Claire enters a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and chooses to write about the people of the letters for her graduate thesis. Her decision sparks a journey both challenging and inspiring, a research adventure including four days of intensive blacksmithing and a month-long stay in the German Rhineland-Palatinate.

Even as Claire wrestles to bring her ancestors to life on the page, she suffers through loss in her own life and finds strength through new family connections. Via 19th-century correspondence, 21st-century emails, and present-day relationships and encounters, How We Survive Here: Families Across Time weaves together a story of how we must strive to survive, amid experiences past and present, and within the broader sweep of history.

How We Survive Here includes over two dozen authentic 19th-century letters written by German immigrant blacksmiths and wagon-makers to Cleveland, Ohio.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781603817011
Publisher: Epicenter Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/01/2018
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Claire Gebben was born and raised on the southeast side of Cleveland, Ohio. After earning a BA in Psychology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she settled in the Pacific Northwest, where she worked in various jobs as a resource center manager, newsletter editor, communications director and ghostwriter, all the while raising a family. In 2011, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing through the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Her debut historical novel The Last of the Blacksmiths (Coffeetown Press, 2014) is based on the true story of her German immigrant ancestor who pursues the American dream. Since the novel's publication, she's been invited to speak at various venues on the untold stories of 19th-century immigration history, on creating legacies using family genealogies, and on research and writing. An adventurer at heart, she enjoys hiking, bicycling, traveling, and even on occasion blacksmithing. Ms. Gebben is married, has two adult children, and lives on Mercer Island, Washington.

Learn more at

Angela Weber, contributor of the German-to-English translations of the letters, was born in Bad Dürkheim, Germany and grew up in the nearby town of Freinsheim. After studying cultural anthropology, visual arts and Spanish at the University of Marburg, she pursued various artistic and publication projects while raising two daughters. In 2017, through the University of Bonn, she completed her PhD thesis, a cultural studies approach to Indigenous positions in Canadian art discourse. Ms. Weber has shown her artwork in group exhibitions at Marburg, Cologne, Berlin and Frankfurt. She is published in various periodicals and anthologies, and writes for the Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon [Artists of the World]. She and her family live in Marburg, Germany.

Table of Contents

Family Tree vii

Map of the Freinsheim, Germany Region ix

Part 1 The discovery of ancestral letters propels the author on a challenging journey to write about her family history. Narrative includes over a dozen 19th-century letters written by German immigrant blacksmiths and wagon-makers to Cleveland, Ohio 1

Part 2 A collection of twenty additional 19th- and early 20th-century letters written from Cleveland to Germany spanning the years 1857-1908 261

Index 317

Acknowledgements 321

Customer Reviews