Afterimages: A Family Memoir
Afterimages is Carol Ascher's moving and deeply psychological reflection on growing up as the daughter of refugees from Nazi Europe. Born several weeks after her parents' arrival in the United States, Ascher grew up in Topeka, Kansas, where her father, who had trained as a psychoanalyst in Vienna, found work at the Menninger Sanitarium. Ascher's challenge in Topeka was to make sense of the Midwestern views of her neighborhood and school; the irrepressible optimism of her mother, with her tendency to romanticize her Berlin childhood; and the more sardonic views of her father's circle of highly cultured émigré psychoanalysts, for whom memory was both illness and cure.
Her moody father both charmed and terrorized Ascher and her two younger sisters, drawing them into his bouts of rage and his searing disdain for his adopted country. At twenty-four, she was struggling to find her own way when he died of a heart attack. Thus, in her fifties, Ascher returns to Vienna to learn more about her father's life before his forced emigration, to come to terms with the violent history which helped shape him, and to explore memories of historical and personal violence that have lived within her. Ascher makes vivid the psychoanalytic understanding of memory in the telling of her uniquely powerful story.
"A moving, compelling, and beautifully written family memoir, Afterimages sheds new and important light on refugee displacement, emigration, and the continuing legacy of the Holocaust for those who come after the event but continue to live in its unending shadow. Carol Ascher, American-born daughter of parents who fled Nazi anti-Semitism from Germany and Austria, takes us along on her fascinating quest to unravel the complex strands of a her family’s – especially her father’s – complicated background history in Europe before the war, and the powerful "afterimage" of that history as it affected her and her siblings throughout their lives in the United States. In so doing, and in enmeshing the familial with her own, personal, account of increasing understanding and compassion, she provides us with a poignant book, a second-generation chronicle that offers rich intellectual insights while also stirring our deepest feelings."
Leo SpitzerVernon Professor of History Emeritus, Dartmouth College
Author, Hotel Bolivia
"Pursuing her story across two continents, from the Midwest of her own childhood to the Europe of her parents' growing up, Carol Ascher, the daughter of a Viennese psychoanalyst, explores with much psychological insight the unsettling legacy of Nazi persecution on her complicated immigrant family, and ultimately on herself, in this probing, well-written memoir."
Alix Kates ShulmanAuthor, Memoirs of a Prom Queen
"Afterimages is a beautiful and totally serious book --- the life and death need to encounter and k n o w the beloved enemy father – who may never have known himself. It is also an angry, hurt, defiant and deeply tender book. Only a daughter who, besides being a gifted writer, has also trained herself in Austrian cultural history, politics, and psychoanalytic theory, could have so masterfully done the research and filled in from her imagination – an unheard of procedure in biography and history-- the circumstances and inner life of the one she is in pursuit of. Daring! And it works!
The whole book is like a psychoanalysis, with its many layers to be excavated, and its many shifts in time and place, which have nothing to do with chronological time and everything to do with memory and subjective time."
Eva KollischProfessor Emeritus, of German and Comparative Literature, Sarah Lawrence College
Author, The Ground Under My Feet