• As a baby with my birthmother. 1940

  • With my German Mother, early 1941

  • Four years old

  • On a fancy tricycle, 1944 or 1945

  • With adoptive sister Ruth, sporting new hand-painted skirts

  • Seven years old, with beloved doll

  • The model, 1975. Studio Hado Pruetzman, Munich


Split at the Root: A Memoir of Love and Lost Identity

Split at the Root paperback

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In this dramatic and beautifully written memoir, the author explores questions of race, adoption and identity, not as the professor of cultural studies that she became, but as the Black child of German settlers in Guatemala who called her their “little Moor.” Her journey into investigating the mystery of how these White foreigners became her parents begins when she reluctantly considered joining an African-American organization at the U.S. College where she taught. She realized it was not just her foreign accent that alienated her from Blacks. Under layers of privilege (private schools, international travel, the life of a fashion model and actress in Europe) she discovered that her most important story is one of disinheritance.

The author’s determination to find out who her mother and father really were, and why she was taken from them, tests the love of her White husband and their son, leads her to embrace and then reject the charismatic man she believes to be her biological father, and takes her to the jungles of Guatemala to find a family that has kept her memory alive as legend. In the book’s shocking ending, she learns truths about her mother, and the callous disrespect committed long ago againstmother and child in the name of love.

Tristine Rainer, Director of the Center for Autobiographic Studies;
author The new Diary and Your Life as Story.

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