There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. ~ Goethe
When the young daughter of a German scientist is transplanted to America, her new life is fraught with painful circumstances. With fear as her constant companion, carried by forces within and beyond herself, she survives and eventually thrives. This is her story.
Loneliness, divorce, and mental illness impact the formative years of an immigrant daughter. From the devastation of war to the challenge of life in a new country, she encounters both the best and worst of human nature, bittersweet. Through it all, she comes to realize that everyone struggles, but can choose their own path. She keeps going in the belief that she'll become stronger and wiser. It is hoped that in her story, others may find encouragement and support to cope through difficult times.
Barbara Hussmann Long was born in Bad Homburg, Germany, and grew up near State College, Pennsylvania. She has two married daughters, five granddaughters, and lives with her husband on Long Island Sound. She worked in sales and management, and is involved in community and civic projects. She can be found on Facebook at Bittersweet Memories and Bittersweetmemories.net.
This is the story of a woman who, even in childhood, managed to cope very well with her extremely difficult circumstances. Her entire life has consisted of emerging victorious. Barbara didn't make lemonade from the lemons that life gave her, but rather a souffle. ~ Shelli Netherton, Missouri
Barbara Hussmann Long's "Bittersweet Memories" is a heartwarming story of success and happiness in the face of childhood adversity. Barbara describes her troubled youth in fascinating detail and how she overcame the roadblocks to be a happy bride and mother. Highly recommended read! ~Donna Hockenberry, Pennsylvania
Something for everybody! Easy reading with history, family experiences, and life lessons you will relate to. You cry, smile, grow, love, and soar with Barbara as she tells her story straight from the heart.
A page turner! ~Judy Stancil, South Carolina
Review of Bittersweet Memories — 5 Stars
The chaos inflicted upon those living under the umbrella of war can be so unfair and feel so unnecessary. And when the war is over it is never really “over” in one's psyche. In its wake are broken bridges, broken homes, and broken spirits. And the damage inflicted is never uniformly distributed. In this game of life, we are all given a set of cards to play. But even within a family, each hand can be quite different. We humans — and our relationships — can be both fragile and resilient, and that balance is never the same for each of us. Like war, mental instability, which clearly can be a casualty of war, is difficult to reconcile with what is fair, or right, or just.
Barbara Hussmann Long’s parents who were both good-looking, talented intellectuals were married on the eve of WWII and Barbara and her brother were born in wartime and post war Germany. In her memoir, Barbara examines the understandably fragmented memories of her childhood — for what it was and for what it might have been. Barbara writes with honesty and with her heart on her sleeve, and she manages to bring so much wisdom to this little book. I thoroughly enjoyed all her quotes… how she took them to heart and used them as guiding lights on her often challenging path. Her mother was a principled war resister but could be cruel to her own children. Her brother was an affable fellow with a brilliant mind but was unable to support himself as an adult. Barbara and her father both longed for a normal father-daughter relationship but were never able to manifest one. Through all the disappointments and ironic twists of fate, Barbara emerges compassionate toward her family of origin. She is keenly aware of the importance of a cohesive, loving family — perhaps more so than most of us. So much so, it is with an almost militant philosophical seriousness that she advocates for parents to be kindhearted and nurturing.
Long’s Bittersweet Memories stirred both my emotions and my thinking and for this reason it deserves 5 stars. ~Maureen Magner, Florida
Barbara Long shows in her book that with resiliency adversity can be over come. Because of her gifts of intelligence, ambition, people skills, energy and kindness she was able to build a bridge out of a dysfunctional family life with a mentally ill mother and an absent father to a happy life she never knew growing up. In a tragedy one can chose hope or despair. Barbara chose hope and her brother chose despair. Through hope she achieved her dream,- family and friends that love her. I highly recommend this book. ~Cheryl Kaufman, Chicago, Illinois
We often think of gifts for family. This past year, my mom gave my family and me an incredible GIFT- a gift of a written account of her stories, memories & life lessons. I am so proud to call her a published author, and an amazing mother. Words to describe my mom’s book: beautiful, touching, sad, funny, with history intertwined throughout the book. There were moments of great sadness in her past, yet being the positive person she has always been, she was able to see the good & the beauty in life. ~Amy Long Hamwey, Massachusetts
Bittersweet Memories: The Life Story of an Immigrant Daughter by Barbara Hussmann Long is a story worth the telling. It's a page turner memoir of the author's chaotic childhood and how she manages to survive it through perseverance and resourcefulness. Her journey brings her from fear and poverty to self-confidence, success, love and forgiveness. She is an inspiration to all who read the story of her life, which is a beautifully written, understated straightforward narrative whose power comes from its unsentimental matter-of-factness. A must read. ~Cindy Cherny, Florida
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© 2019 by Barbara Long
Publisher Weekly review - 2020
Long, a German American immigrant, shares the story of her parents’ broken marriage, her brother’s alcoholism, and her own challenges finding happiness and peace against the backdrop of WWII’s lasting shadow. Long is a natural storyteller, and though she joins many others in addressing the trauma experienced in WWII, her memoir provides an unusual perspective: a member of a white, upper-middle-class family living through the rise and fall of Nazi Germany and immigrating to America. Framed as an effort to come to terms with the unexpected death of Long’s estranged father, this book covers divorce, mental illness, faith, and family through a combination of storytelling and personal reflections.
At times, Long’s stories feel straight out of a war drama. An anecdote about her mother having a friendly chat with Ulrich Graf, Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard and friend, strikes a chilling note (and contrasts with Long’s mother's later vehement anti-Nazi sentiments). The book is full of similar larger-than-life moments, including a humorous encounter with the von Trapp Family Singers (of Sound of Music fame) and a tale of Long’s mother sneaking into the 1936 Olympics. The family’s personal challenges are no less intense. Long is sometimes dismissive of her brother, viewing him as giving in to mental illness and substance abuse; readers may wish she’d put more effort into reflecting on how his coping mechanisms mirrored her frantic quest for external sources of inspiration and approval.
Long’s central message is that nothing surpasses the power of positive thinking, especially when healing from trauma. Citing Pollyanna, Norman Vincent Peale, and music from the last few decades, Long celebrates her positive attitude, which she believes drove her personal and professional successes: becoming a top-notch salesperson, finding a spiritual home in Unitarian Universalism, and raising her family. Readers will find themselves quoting Long’s many aphorisms long after they finish this moving memoir.
Takeaway: This emotional memoir will resonate with readers interested in first-person-accounts of life in Nazi Germany, immigration in wartime, and family strife.