1,000 Coils of Fear

Catapult. Jul. 2022. 288p. tr. from German by Priscilla Layne. ISBN 9781646220502. pap. $16.95. F
DEBUT In her debut novel, Black German playwright Wenzel tackles big questions: race, gender, Germany, politics, suicide, the refugee crisis, terrorism, family dynamics, and love. The unnamed narrator interviews herself, with her answers creating an interior monologue that provides clues to her psychological and physical well-being. Having grown up in East Germany, she is close to her grandmother but estranged from her parents. Her punk activist mother was imprisoned for unspecified reasons, while her Angolan father returned to Africa before her birth to start and raise another family. The narrator’s twin brother killed himself by jumping in front of a train when they were 19. The narrator describes what it is like to grow up a biracial, bisexual woman in Germany, experiencing racism not only from neo-Nazis but also from members of her own family. To cope with her insomnia and panic, she sees several psychologists, one of whom tells her he cannot help since he only deals with patients burdened by the past, not those trying to navigate the present. Eventually, she ends up in New York on the night of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
VERDICT An original, wise, and thought-provoking work probing current issues. Essential reading.
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