Reviews & Comments
"Having attended your excellent presentation at the local University Bookstore, I followed up in reading Home Alone in America with great interest.
"Berlin is also my native city and--like the young letter writer, Helmut--I lived there through World War II and later emigrated…to the U. S. His letters fascinated me, because they draw an interesting picture of the cultural, social, and economic life in post-war America, as seen through the eyes of a young German. In comparison, his family's letters from Berlin show the harsh life in immediate post-war Germany and especially in the Soviet-surrounded and at times blockaded West Berlin.
"With a similar personal background as the letter writers on both sides, I was very impressed by the book. I sincerely recommend it for its valuable documentation of an important part of western history. Readers will also meet in the young letter writer a person of amazing resilience and creativity who has a good sense of humor and high ethical standards as well."
Ursula Erdmann, Ph. D.
"As an associate professor of U. S. history, I highly recommend this book. It contains valuable information that may be used with profit in courses on foreign policy and immigration and sociocultural history. Mr. Dost's correspondence sheds light on his adjustment to life in the United States, his interaction with relatives in early Cold War Berlin, and his service in the United States military during the Korean conflict. Students have particularly valued reading how he socialized with other Marines during his time in Korea. This collection of letters offers a valuable chance to reflect upon what is integral and what is incidental about being an American, for Mr. Dost was faced with that distinction each day of his new life in the United States."
Fr. Thomas Murphy, S. J.
"Home Alone in America offers firsthand accounts of postwar life in California. The sharp, observant Dost wrote the letters while he was a teenager working to make his own way in his new country and to bring his family over.
"Helmut Dost lived for three years on a ranch in what is now a residential area of Los Altos Hills. He details the physical aspects of tending chickens and other livestock, and growing apricots. His precision reveals the practical outlook of the physicist he eventually became.
"Dost's widow, a journalist, translated and organized the communications. She has done a marvelous job of preparing them for publication. They are well-organized and annotated where necessary for clarity. Letters from Dost's family in Germany are interspersed chronologically."
"Home Alone in America is a compelling read. Elizabeth Dost's innovative use of the letters exchanged between a young man and his family to tell the story of their multi-year separation is engaging on many levels. The experiences of this family illuminate the complex social and economic dynamics of life in and between post-war Germany and America."
Kirsten A. Foot, Ph.D.
"Helmut's life unfolds like a historical novel through collected correspondence, photographs, and occasionally the journal entries of his father. The story is immediate, concrete, and filled with emotion.
"Although many books have covered postwar German immigration to the United States, few have provided such an engaging glimpse into an immigrant's life through personal letters.
"In a classroom or book group, Home Alone in America could be used to inspire discussions on a variety of themes, including education in Germany and the U. S., language learning, or the impact of world events on personal history."
from Review by Pamela Tesch
"Post-war Germany in its confusion and harsh conditions comes alive to the reader, as does mid-20th Century California with its still wide-open spaces and opportunities. In this compelling read one comes to appreciate the warmth, intelligence, energy, vitality, and perseverance of each family member. What comes through is the great love they had for each other and the willingness of each to sacrifice for the others."
"I cheered when Helmut triumphed and became depressed at his setbacks. Because I couldn't read it all in one sitting, I was very anxious between letters. Finally, when I finished the book, I sobbed with relief that the Dost family had a happy ending. Later, I realized I wasn't only sobbing for the Dosts' joy, but for my loss . . . I would never have the privilege of getting to meet Helmut. I still feel that loss."
"It was a fascination for me to read about a young native German-speaker leaving all that was familiar behind and coming to America to launch from scratch into a brand-new life. I have experienced something very similar. The first 26 years of my life were spent in America; the last 26 have been in German-speaking Austria.
"The experience of permanently changing cultures, languages, and everything else that counts in life, including separation from friends and loved ones, can only be fully understood in the doing of it. Helmut mastered this over-sized challenge single-handed. His courage, kind-heartedness, optimism, steadfastness, willingness to work hard, and obvious talent and ability were both impressive and inspiring."
"I just finished your book, and the first thing I'd like to say is that I want more! There was just so much going on that I wanted to dig unto . . . I could only imagine what Helmut's family was going through . . . being so helpless and having to rely on Helmut who appeared to have no idea that he was being had.
"I was fascinated by the irony of Helmut's remarks about our health care system . . . and the non-stop American money-making ethic. How relevant they are today! As part of required reading for [classes in] social studies, history etc. it would be a great book for generating discussions!"
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