Thursday, March 30, 2017

Book Review: Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For by Rebecca Schuman

In college after I squeaked out of my final German class with a D, my father apologized for passing along the Siegfried-can't-learn-languages gene. I had taken German because A) it was in my blood and B) English is a Germanic-based language which I thought meant some parts of it would be easier and C) it might be the only class where I wouldn't have to explain how to pronounce my last name. Mostly C. (And B is completely true and when I later took Chaucer in college, my background in German was super-helpful in understanding Middle English.)

Rebecca took German for an equally stupid reason, although her decision had much bigger ramifications than mine: a cute boy she liked took German. Well, that's as good as reason as any in high school! She just wasn't expecting it to stick. She went to Germany for a year in college, where she mostly partied, pissed off her host family, and learned as little as possible. And yet, it still didn't leave her. Later, after futzing around for a bit, she finally decided to go to grad school in German. And now she teaches it. She never had an "Aha!" moment when she discovered a love for it, but it just got into her blood and wouldn't let go.

The first half of the book when she was partying and rejecting all learning, wasn't really speaking to me (although it may well have when I was that age.) The end of the book when she was finally pursuing her life's goal and making a career, was when I really fell in love with the book. Now I can't blame her for the early half—I might not have done things that way in my twenties, but we've all made terrible choices/decisions out of ignorance/naivete, and the important thing is to learn from it. But I really identified with her not knowing what to do with her life, even though it seemed to be staring her in the face, and her fitful starts and stops along the way. I was almost proud when she finally got her life on track, as if I had something to do with it. Even if you aren't interested in German, this book is totally relatable to anyone who's ever felt adrift, not understood where their life was headed, and maybe didn't step out of college and onto the career ladder instantly. If you are a language aficionado, even better!

I checked this book out of the library.

This book is publisher by MacMillan, my employer.

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