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5.0 out of 5 stars A trip in body and spirit..., 14 May 2013
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Letting It Go (Hardcover)
Miriam Katin is a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who lives with her husband in New York. She is an artist and her husband is a musician. Born in 1942 in Budapest, Miriam and her mother went into hiding in the Hungarian countryside, posing as a Christian woman and her daughter, after the Germans invaded the country in 1944. She has written a previous book, "We Are On Our Own", which depicts in graphic-style the life she and her mother lived til the war was over.

I haven't read many graphic novels; Katin's might be the fifth or sixth. I can't really comment on the art except to say it is drawn mostly in pencil - both gray and colored - and is very appealing to the eye. The story, though, is what really sets "Letting It Go" off from many works of Holocaust literature.

Miriam Katin's book is about the journey she made - both in body and in spirit - to the city of Berlin, first in 2005 and another trip a year or so later. She had grown up as a hater of Germany and all things German. (And who would blame her?) When she was in her late 60's, her son, Ilan, told her and her husband that he had decided to settle in Berlin and was trying to adopt EU citizenship. Would she claim him as the child of a Hungarian citizen so he could claim EU status. (Even though Katin had US citizenship, she was still considered Hungarian by her place-of-birth. The exact details of this are a bit sketchy in the book.) Faced with examining her past by Ilan's request and talking it over with her mother - the woman who had saved her life during the war - she decided to go through the onerous process of the paperwork. Next up was a trip to Berlin with her husband to visit her son and his girlfriend.

The balance of the book/art is about her visits to Berlin. She is very upfront with how uncomfortable both the run up to the trips and the trips themselves were to her. But she opens up both her mind and her heart and sees Berlin as it has become in the last 20 or so years. One of the places that she visits is the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe". You may have seen pictures of it; it's the field off the Unter den Linden, near the Brandenburg Gate with a hundreds of square stelae of differing heights. What this field is supposed to "mean" is open to question, but the memorial underneath is THE thing to see. Because this underground museum, or memorial, was built by the German government and the title is a testimony to their commitment to talk about and examine their past and admit, frankly, what went on under their watch. "Murdered Jews" - the title and the museum contents say it all. (There are other museums and monuments to others killed in the Holocaust as well; one to the murdered gay and lesbian communities is across the street from the one I'm referring to.)

Miriam Katin writes and draws about the modern Berlin and how, slowly, she came to adjust her thinking and "let go" of some of her previous prejudices. Maybe the book spoke to me because the city of Berlin has "spoken" to me on my five or so trips there in the past 20 years. And maybe it spoke to me because I admired Miriam and her "journey" to an uncomfortable past that she was able to face down. I've made this review more "personal" than most of the ones I write because Katin's book provoked those feelings in me. The combination of words and drawing gives her book a close-to-the heart feeling.

She appears to have ended her trips to Berlin (the second was a trip to see some of her work featured in an art exhibit) with a new feeling of acceptance. It's quite a book.
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Letting It Go
Letting It Go by Miriam Katin (Hardcover - 20 Mar 2013)
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