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Blog Archive

Victoria Belim

In 2014, the landmarks of Victoria Belim’s personal geography were plunged into tumult at the hands of Russia. Her hometown, Kyiv, was gripped by protests and violence. Crimea, where she’d once been sent to school to avoid radiation from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, was invaded. Kharkiv, where her grandmother Valentina studied economics and fell in love; Donetsk, where her father once worked; and Mariupol, where she and her mother bought a cherry tree for Valentina’s garden, all became battlegrounds.

Victoria, by then a naturalized American citizen then living in Brussels, felt she had to go back. She had to spend time with her aging grandmother and her cousin Dmytro. She had to unravel a family mystery spanning several generations. And she needed to understand how her country’s tragic history of communist revolution, civil war, famine, world war, totalitarianism, and fraught independence had changed the course of their lives. A young woman’s quest to uncover her family’s difficult past reveals broader truths about the present conflict.  Victoria Belim’s memoir is a personal history of her family’s turbulent past and a celebration of Ukrainian identity.

Martina J. Kohl

Family Matters follows the traces of a German family that, over generations, continues to cross the Atlantic in both directions. Like Elizabeth and Little Henry who, at the beginning of the 20th century, are forced to leave their beloved New York to return to the old country; the violinist Clara who can only live her passion for music in the America of the suffragettes; the war bride Toni, who courageously follows a G.I. to Nebraska after World War II; and, finally, the student Iris who is trying to find her place in both worlds in the 1980s. Looking back, they all ask the same question: “What if . . .?” What if they had not gone to America, or back to the old country? If they had not fallen in love? What if they had taken that other road and pursued their dreams a bit more forcefully?

Family Matters takes ordinary, yet memorable characters out of the yellowed pictures in the photo albums, gives them a voice and places them in their own time. Martina J. Kohl revives the past. She shows that today cannot be understood without the yesterday. And that migration, uprooting and the search for belonging are universal themes.

Martina J. Kohl worked in the Cultural Section of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin for many years where she developed and organized numerous programs. She especially loved the Literature Series that she coordinated with the English Theatre Berlin | International Performing Arts Center featuring established and up-and-coming American writers. Writing has been a passion ever since she taught at the University of Michigan. It is part of her seminars that she teaches regularly at Humboldt University Berlin and defined her work as editor of the American Studies Journal. As an advisory board member of the Salzburg Global American Studies Program, she continues to engage in transatlantic dialogue. Among her academic publications, Family Matters is her first book-length fictional work that is published in English and German. Born in the Rheingau region, she lives with her family in Berlin.

Publisher: PalmArtPress Berlin for FAMILY MATTERS. Of Life in Two Worlds / FAMILY MATTERS. Vom Leben in zwei Welten (2023)

Parataxe – International Literature

Dinara Rasulewa and Tomer Dotan-Dreyfus

What languages does Berlin write in? In varying locations, PARATAXE regularly invites Berlin authors, who pen their work in languages other than German, to take part in conversations, readings and new translations.

Multilingual live talks and readings by the poet Dinara Rasuleva (together with her translator Peggy Lohse) and the writer Tomer Dotan-Dreyfus.

An evening in German with some English, Hebrew, Russian and Tatar – and with literary translations into German. Hosted by Martin Jankowski.

PARATAXE is a project of the Berliner Literarische Aktion e.V. and is supported by Berlin’s Senate Department for Culture and Europe. Further information can be found at

Where Do Novels Come From?

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series: Where Do Novels Come From? About Writing and Creativity

Lauren Groff and Lorrie Moore in Conversation with Gregor Dotzauer

Lauren Groff is the ELLEN MARIA GORRISSEN FELLOW – CLASS OF SPRING 2023 at the American Academy in Berlin. She is the author of six books of fiction, the most recent the novel MATRIX (September 2021). Her work has won The Story Prize, the ABA Indies’ Choice Award and France’s Grand Prix de l’Héroïne, was a three-time finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction and twice for the Kirkus Prize and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Prize, the Southern Book Prize and the Los Angeles Times Prize. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.

Lorrie Moore is currently the MARY ELLEN VON DER HEYDEN FELLOW IN FICTION – CLASS OF SPRING 2023 at the American Academy in Berlin. She is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English and Creative Writing at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of two short story collections, three novels and a children’s novel. Her new novel I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home (June 2023) has been listed as one of the most anticipated books of 2023 by Time Magazine. Lorrie Moore has won numerous awards such as the O. Henry Award, The Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Rea Award for the Short Story, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction.  She has been a finalist for the Orange Prize, The PEN Faulkner Award, The National Book Critics’ Circle Award, The Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. See What Can Be Done (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) is a collection of her reviews and essays that previously appeared in publications such as The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Yale Review and The Atlantic. A recipient of an NEA, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Fellowship, the Berlin Prize and a Pushcart Prize, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006.

Gregor Dotzauer is lead editor for nonfiction at Berlin’s Tagesspiegel.  He studied German, philosophy and musicology in Würzburg and Frankfurt am Main before beginning to write about literature and film for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Zeit and the Süddeutsche Zeitung. In 1999, he joined Berlin’s Tagesspiegel as literary editor, where he also regularly writes on topics related to jazz or the humanities. In 2009, he received the Alfred Kerr Prize for Literary Criticism. In October 2022, Matthes & Seitz published his literary essay “Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen – Über Musik, Moment und Erinnerung” (A Song Sleeps In All Things – On Music, Moment and Memory).

NoViolet Bulawayo

Black History Month/The U.S. Embassy Literature Series 2023 – NoViolet Bulawayo reads from her novels We Need New Names and Glory

Moderated by Anne Potjans, Humboldt University

NoViolet Bulawayo is the author of the novels Glory and We Need New Names, which was recognized with the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Pen/Hemingway Award, the LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Etisalat Prize for Literature, the Fred Brown Literary Award, the Betty Trask Award, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award (second place) and the National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Fiction Selection. We Need New Names was also shortlisted for the International Literature Award, the Man Booker Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award. NoViolet earned her MFA at Cornell University where she was a recipient of the Truman Capote Fellowship. She has taught fiction writing at Cornell and Stanford Universities. She grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and is currently writing full-time from the wherevers.

The most translated author in modern Zimbabwean history, she is the first Black African Woman to be selected for the Booker List twice, and is one of only two African writers, the other being Chigozie Obioma, to be listed for both her debut and follow-up novel.

Since October 2022, Anne Potjans has been a postdoctoral researcher in the EU-funded research project Tales of the Diasporic Ordinary. Aesthetics, Affects, Archives at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where she currently investigates the relationship between queer subcultural spaces and discourses on race and racism in Germany and the United States. Earlier in 2022, she completed her doctoral degree with a dissertation on “‘Why Are You So Angry?’” – The Uses of Rage and Anger in Black Feminist Literature” in the American Studies program at Humboldt and is a joint winner of Peter Lang’s competition New Perspectives in Black Studies, for which she received a publishing contract with Peter Lang in 2021.  Apart from that, she has worked on diasporic connections between African American and Black German feminist autobiographical writing in the post-World War II period and the intersections of Blackness, sexuality, and racial visibility in German film productions. She was an exchange faculty in the Honors program at the University of Washington in the fall of 2019 and has presented and published her research both nationally and internationally.

Casual Baggage

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series | International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Selected Readings from the Play Casual Baggage by Michael Lederer

With Harvey Friedman as Ivo, Daniel Grave as Michael, Sarai Cole as Rada, Mareile Metzner as Player One, and Alexander Schröder as Player Two

Followed by a discussion with the playwright, moderated by Daniel Brunet

Based on the true story of a small group of Jewish refugees admitted into America during WWII. Numbering less than a thousand, they were kept behind barbed wire in an internment camp upstate NY until the war’s end. Years later, one survivor from that group finds it easier to share his story with a young Black woman he has just met than with his own US-American-born son.

Michael Lederer is a playwright, poet, novelist, short story writer and essayist. He was born in Princeton, New Jersey, where his father Ivo Lederer was a professor of Contemporary European Diplomatic History. He grew up in New Haven, New York City, and Palo Alto, California. Lederer has lived in London, Spain, Vienna, Dubrovnik, and Berlin. Member Dramatists Guild, SAG-AFTRA, AEA, PEN International, National Arts Club, NYC, Players Club, NYC. B.A., Theatre Arts, Binghamton University. Original acting member of Tony award-winning TheatreWorks in Palo Alto. Founding Artistic Director of Dubrovnik Shakespeare Festival, 2009-2012. His script Saving America was a 2019 winner PAGE International Screenwriting Award. His novel Cadaques was selected by the U.S. Embassy Berlin for their US-American Literature Series 2014. He has published two collections of short stories, The Great Game: Berlin-Warsaw Express and Other Stories, 2012; also In the Widdle Wat of Time, 2016. He has written for Politico and contributes regular essays about politics and expat life to the American Studies Journal.

The Cactus League

The U.S. Embassy Literature Series: Emily Nemens in conversation with Musa Okwonga

Emily Nemens reads from her debut novel The Cactus League and talks with Musa Okwonga about baseball and its impact on US-American society, identity, fan culture, literature and the Picador Guest Professorship.

This event is part of the U.S. Embassy Literature Series and is presented by the Picador Guest Professorship for Literature in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy and the English Theatre Berlin | International Performing Arts Center.

Lydia Stryk

The U.S. EMBASSY LITERATURE SERIES – Lydia Stryk reads from her new novel The Teachers´ Room.

A novice fifth-grade teacher embarks on a clandestine love affair with another teacher, which sets her on the tumultuous path of self-discovery.

It is 1963, one of the most turbulent years in American history. The escalating tensions and conflicts in society at large are playing out in classrooms, principals’ offices, and school boards across the country, along with the first stirrings of social transformation, though the past still holds its suffocating grip. And behind the closed door of the teachers’ room in one small Midwest town, two teachers set eyes on each other and find it hard to look away.

Karen Murphy, fresh from college, has taken on her first teaching job. Despite her best efforts, she can’t seem to stick to the subjects in her fifth-grade school books, helped along by the antics of a girl who upends all her lesson plans. She has a lot to learn, and her women colleagues are there to offer their advice, especially the enigmatic fourth-grade teacher, Esther Jonas. As Karen quickly discovers, the devoted spinster teacher with no life beyond the classroom is a myth—the school is teeming with passion and secrets, her own perilous desire for Esther Jonas included.

The Teachers’ Room offers both a panoramic view of a changing America and an intimate portrait of the hidden lives of teachers.

Award-winning playwright Lydia Stryk was born and raised in DeKalb, Illinois, birthplace of barbed wire and flying ears of corn. Her plays have been produced across the United States and also in Germany, including American Tet and Lady Lay at English Theatre Berlin. The Teachers’ Room is her first novel, a process she describes in her essay, “A Playwright Crosses the Border Into Fiction”.

Photograph: Jo. van Norden

Millennial Surrealism

The U.S. EMBASSY LITERATURE SERIES – Millennial Surrealism: Hilary Leichter in conversation with Teresa Bücker

Hilary Leichter is the current Picador Guest Professor for Literature at the University of Leipzig. She is the author of the novel Temporary which casts a hilarious and tender eye toward the struggle for happiness under late capitalism. The German translation Die Hauptsache was published by Arche Verlag in 2021. Her next novel, Terrace Story, will be published in the summer of 2023 by Ecco.

Teresa Bücker works as a freelance journalist, moderator and consultant. At conferences, in magazines, on television and in workshops, she regularly discusses the changing world of work, justice, power, sexual empowerment and digital strategies for journalism. On October 19, 2022, her first nonfiction book Alle_ Zeit. Eine Frage von Macht und Freiheit will be published by Ullstein Verlag.

On September 12, Hilary Leichter will read from her debut novel Temporary and talk with Teresa Bücker about capitalism and the impact on our lives, temporary work, feminism, power, freedom, literature and the Picador Guest Professorship.



Parataxe – International Literature

What languages does Berlin write in? In varying locations, PARATAXE regularly invites Berlin authors, who pen their work in languages other than German, to take part in conversations, readings and new translations.

With Aboud Saeed (& his translator Sandra Hetzl) and Avrina Prabala-Joslin!

An evening in German, English and Arabic – with translations. Hosted by Martin Jankowski (Berliner Literarische Aktion).

Aboud Saeed was born in 1983 in a small town near Aleppo, Syria where he worked in a blacksmith’s workshop for 15 years. Then he became an active blogger on Facebook. After his first book, Der klügste Mensch im Facebook mit Statusmeldungen, was published in German translation in 2013, he came to Germany as a Syrian author. He continued writing in Berlin, between asylum and alienation, and his life-sized news ticker, about childhood and youth in Syria, was published. He returned to his first profession as a metalworker in Olafur Eliasson’s studio. His new book Die ganze Geschichte has recently been published.

Sandra Hetzl was born in Munich in 1980 and lives in Beirut. She studied Visual Culture Studies at the Berlin University of the Arts. She works as a literary translator from Arabic and makes video installations. In addition, she is the brain behind 10/11. A laboratory and, simultaneously, a mouthpiece for experimental forms of Arabic literature, 10/11 is based in Beirut and Berlin. The collective consists of writers, translators and international publishing professionals. 10/11 makes texts (often snatched from the depths of the WWW) by young writers working in Arabic accessible to the international publishing market and strives to nurture dynamic exchange.

Avrina Prabala-Joslin writes fiction and poetry on the fluidity of things, place, space and time. She is obsessed with memories, of childhood – they pervade and evade, an ebb and flow characteristic of her desire for the sea. Currently, she is a doctoral researcher at the University of Göttingen and is working on theorizing feminist digital memory. She has an MA in writing from the University of Warwick and has published on a few platforms such as Elsewhere Lit, Bird’s Thumb and Coldnoon. Apart from performing at spoken word events, she posts snippets of poetry on Instagram (@avrinajoslin). Her short story “The Plumage” was shortlisted for the 2019 Berlin Writing Prize. Avrina Prabala-Joslin is currently compiling a collection of feminist short fiction. After having lived in many cities in India, England, Italy and Romania, she recently found home in Berlin.

PARATAXE is a project of the Berliner Literarische Aktion e.V. and is supported by Berlin’s Senate Department for Culture and Europe. Further information can be found at