Sail into summer reading
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Stephanie Zweig’s autobiographical novel Nowhere in Africa tells the story of a German family of Jewish refugees—the Redlichs—as they escape World War II–era oppression by
relocating to Kenya. Inspired by her own life, Zweig relies on memory, history, and fantasy to construct the tale.
I related most to the daughter Regina, Zweig’s fictional alter ego. Although Regina’s parents, as refugees, struggle to create a sense of home in a foreign land, she, being so young, has different eyes altogether. Her childhood resiliency—which carries her into adulthood—allows her to befriend native Africans easily and assimilate into the new culture without sacrificing her identity.
Zweig weaves the theme of family relationships into her book. Her protagonist, Regina, loves and respects her father, and their relationship gives her strength to persevere through tragedy. I was always close to my father, so I find their relationship very moving.
I also connected to the novel’s World War II setting since I was in my late teens during that period of history. While reading Nowhere in Africa, I recalled the struggles of my German ancestors when they emigrated to Canada in 1834. The irony of the novel’s German family struggling through Nazi-inflicted trauma strikes me as fascinating. Zweig’s magical story resonates with me most because it simultaneously captures the tragedy of a historical era and the spirit of Kenya. Through Regina’s eyes we encounter both suffering and persistent hope.
Historical fiction is a genre I normally enjoy, but I suspect that even readers who do not gravitate toward typical historical accounts will find Zweig’s book delightful and inspiring.
—Lela Swalm Hostetler ’48 (Junior College) graduated as a Christian education major. She was born in Duntroon, Ontario, Canada, and met her husband, Paul, at Messiah College. They were married in 1949 and served pastorates in Clarence Center, N.Y.; Toronto, Ontario; and Grantham, Pa.
From 1969 until her retirement in 1990, Lela was an acquisition assistant in Murray Library. She now volunteers in the Messiah College and Brethren in Christ Archives, and as the librarian at Messiah Village. Her favorite comfortable chair is never without several books close by.