German Awakening


A timely narrative

2019 IPPY Bronze Award Winner for Best Midwest Nonfiction

Here's the story:

For Amy Hallberg, small town struggles and a passion for language led to retreat from American life. A brief 1987 exchange program in West Germany, including visits to both sides of the Berlin Wall, forever changed Amy's worldview. Through the eyes of her host family, Amy came to recognize Germany's past as a mirror on her homeland.

Two years later, the Wall fell and Reunification began.

As Frau Hallberg, high school teacher, Amy spent the following decades unpacking German lessons on language, human nature, and — most importantly herself.

What people are saying

A stellar debut novel! Amy Hallberg's clear and lucid prose draws the reader in immediately... We travel with her from youth to adulthood, experiencing all the ups and downs in a parallel journey with an enlightening look at German experience before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. More than a memoir... [an] engaging first novel [for] readers of all ages.
Olivia Roller, Spanish Teacher

Amy Hallberg's German Awakening tells a story about family, education, relationships, and a social awakening that especially resonates with anyone who left a home to find another.
Juliane Schicker, Assistant Professor of German, Carleton College

There should exist a German word to describe this conundrum: reading to become sleepy before bedtime... and then a book is so engaging, so addictive you can't put it down...

I forgot more than once that it was non-fiction. Thank you Amy – dear Frau Hallberg – for writing this part of your story, for sharing your journey with the world.

Jenny C.

Color in the lines? I think not. Illuminates the difficulties of keeping a dream alive, yet growing in opposition. Hallberg's vivid language expresses a message ... women need to hear. Our lives are not stuck in stasis and we sometimes need to go off script. When I say sometimes, I mean often.
Kathryn Naughton, German & English Teacher

Great Read... heartfelt and poignant. Easy to read, but complex enough to keep me turning pages. Made me think. Made me feel.
Jeff F.


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Join the conversation

I’m Amy Hallberg and my life forever changed when I became an exchange student in West Germany in 1987.

My exchange sister, Eva, helped me make sense of her beloved, then-divided country. Its unthinkable history. Thanks to her unflinching perspective, I saw my American homeland in a new light. And my blind spots.

"You know an awful lot about our history," Eva once said. "Perhaps you should learn more about your own."

Following German reunification, I unpacked her lessons for years as a teacher. In 2009, when I brought a group of students to Germany, this book tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Write."

Who knew that as of this book's release in 2018, we Americans would face so many echoes of Germany's past (& our own)?

That the memoir of a bookish girl would weave so many relevant threads?

This is my unlikely and precisely-timed lifepath.

(Mein Lebenslauf. I'm not even German. But what a German story it's been!)

It's a story of belonging and otherness. Displacement and finding home. Above all it's an ode to a treasured friendship and everyday heroes who spoke truth to power.

We Americans can — and must — find love in the face of division. Even (especially) when it's tempting to hide in the shadows and stay quiet. I feel that pull.

But it's not why we're here.

I TAKE HEART when I remember that this story was entrusted to me for a reason.

I'm honoring heroes who risked far more to offer their stories to the world.

And those stories brought healing. That's what we ALL need now.


Sometimes comical, sometimes heartbreaking, Amy Hallberg's passion for language shimmers.
Reverend Susan P. Thomas, ELCA

Charming, zany, delightful, and smart.

Rebecca Tolin, Journalist

A story we need now! Told thoughtfully through the lens of German language and history, this poignant tale of a smart and sensitive American girl's awakening reminds us to tend lovingly to our own lives and communities.
Sarah Bamford Seidelmann, The Book of Beasties

A wonderfully touching surprise. I've often thought of memoirs as belonging to another generation, but this book is a wonderful journey of cultural connection and self-discovery set against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War. It touched me in a deep and surprising way. Highly recommend!
Matthew Guritz, Social Studies Teacher

Stunning. Amy Hallberg is an absolutely phenomenal writer. The book is masterful at weaving elements of her story, elements of history, and all the elements that tie our lives together. It is emotional and never sentimental. A great book for a lover of memoir!
Roseanne C.

Delightful Awakening. What a beautiful, charming story! Thank you for sharing it with the world. The writing is graceful and eloquent. I had a hard time putting it down.

Sarah B.