Response to Nora Krug’s Belonging

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    • #31689

      As someone who had wanted to be a children’s book illustrator but whose father had feared she would be a poor starving artist, I knew that reading Nora Krug’s *Belonging* was going to be incredibly moving. As I was drawn into the Krug’s search for understanding her family’s history, I could not help but think back to an experience I had in the summer of 1988 when I was working as Teaching Assistant at Phillips Andover Academy, helping with the English as a Second Language (ESL) and the AP French programs. My ESL mentor encouraged me to create the July 4th lesson plan, something that would help the international students understand the significance of the U.S. national holiday. After delivering an interactive presentation on July 3rd, I asked the students to prepare a short written description of their country’s national holiday to share with the class the next day. Little did I anticipate the stress that I had created for the sixteen-year-old girl from Germany. It so happened that she was in my residence hall and well past lights out, there was a gentle knock on my door. When I opened the door, I came face to face with the extremely distressed German student. With a huge lump in her throat, she blurted out, “I cannot do this assignment. My country has nothing to be proud of.” We talked until at least 1:00 a.m., with her explaining to me what it was like for her to feel ashamed of her country. At the time, I had not yet begun my lifelong journey of Holocaust Education. I could only listen as I did not have any skills to guide her. In the end, she decided to write about a religious holiday. In class, when it came time for her to read her description, I was tremendously relieved that none of the other students asked her any painful questions. I wonder today if the Japanese student had a similar reaction to the assignment.

    • #31791

      Wow! Sounds like a powerful and important conversation you had with your student. How brave and honest of her to tell you how she felt. You raise a good question here, wondering how another student felt. It is interesting how we as educators can ask questions or create activities that might present a personal challenge for students. It reminds me of the power of discourse and journaling and differentiated assignments when needed.

      Do you still wish to be a children’s book illustrator? It’s never too late to pursue passions…

    • #31861

      Yes, I still wish to be a children’s book illustrator. With COVID-19, I did finally break out my art easel and start painting again. If you like, I will share photos when we meet in NYC next week. In 2016, I was finishing the editing of my book, *The Fairy Tales of Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy.* As the d’Aulnoy’s fairy tales are a challenging read in French, the publisher encouraged me to find original illustrations that were in the public domain. I found illustrations for three of the tales but came up empty for the other three. It was then that one of my students encouraged me to do the illustrations for the other three tales. Little did that student know how he helped to make part of my childhood dream come true.

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