In this compelling memoir of growing up different, Ijoma Mangold, today one of Germany's best literary critics, remembers his youth in 1970s Heidelberg and the new Federal Republic, and momentous visits in early adulthood to the USA and Nigeria. His own story is inextricably linked with that of his mother, a German from the eastern province of Silesia, forced to escape as a refugee in the expulsions from 1944, and to start afresh in utter poverty in West Germany. His Nigerian father came to Germany to train in pediatric surgery but returned before Ijoma was old enough to remember him. His reappearance on the scene forces a crash collision with an unknown culture, one he grew up suspicious of, and a new complex family history to come to terms with. Mangold explores many existential questions in this lively narrative; How does a boy cope with an absent father? What was it like to grow up 'bi-racial' in the Federal Republic? Was he an opportunist, a master adaptor who had over-assimilated? What is the relationship between race and class? And what is more unusual in Germany: having dark skin or a passion for Thomas Mann and Richard Wagner? Ijoma shares his story with its dramatic twists and turns, not forgetting the surprises he uncovers about himself along the way.
Ijoma Mangold was born in Heidelberg in 1971 and studied literature and philosophy in Munich and Bologna. After working for the newspapers Berliner Zeitung and Süddeutsche Zeitung, he moved to the weekly Die Zeit in 2009, where he was literary editor from 2013 to 2018. He is now Die Zeit's cultural correspondent. He is one of four critics for the SWR television programme, Lesenswert. Mangold lives in Berlin.