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READING & DISCUSSION | Family, Generations & Migration: The Austrian-American Experience


The ACF Washington presented an encounter between two young writers and their books on Austrian-American border crossings and its impact on family history, especially from a female point of view. Theodora Bauer and Sarah Wildman read from and discussed their works. This event was organized in light of the Austrian Cultural Forum’s objective to promote and represent female artists.

A Reading & Discussion with Theodora Bauer & Sarah Wildman

Crossing political boundaries shapes families for generations to come. They open up questions of speaking about the past, exploring memory, and the bonds of family through time and space. Austrian author Theodora Bauer’s fictional novel Chikago (2017) focuses on two sisters and their journey from Burgenland to Illinois and the challenges they face from 1921-1937. American author Sarah Wildman’s nonfictional book Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind (2014) follows her own contemporary journey from Washington, D.C. to Vienna searching for her grandfather’s lover, Valy Scheftel, whom he left behind in Austria when he fled the Holocaust.

The discussion by the authors focused on the role families and generations play in the stories, but also what this means more specifically to the female figures who stand out in the leading positions in both texts. Their figures are motivated to travel for a variety of outcomes – not all of which are realized in the new country, but the next generations continue to shape the family’s narrative based on the choice to travel and to return to Austria.   

When: Monday, November 19, 2018 | 7:00 pm
Where: Austrian Cultural Forum Washington/Embassy of Austria
3524 International Court, NW, Washington, DC 20008
Ticket: Free admission, registration obligatory
Parking on International Court is available after 6:30 pm (for the duration of the event) or on 36th Street; access to the Embassy through the park behind the building.


(c) Paul Feuersänger

(c) Paul Feuersänger

Theodora Bauer, born 1990 in Vienna, is a writer of plays and novels. Her debut novel Das Fell der Tante Meri (“Aunt Meri’s fur”) was published in 2014, followed by “Chikago” published by Picus, and awarded and nominated for several awards in Austria. It was also selected by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung as one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 and won the Recognition Award of the Theodor Kery Foundation.

Theodora’s plays have been published by the Viennese publishing house Schultz & Schirm. Working on the manuscript for “Chikago”, papier.waren.pospischil (“paper.goods.pospischil”) was awarded at the festival Die Freiheit des Lachens (“The Freedom of Laughter”) in Salzburg in 2017 and the play Am Vorabend (“the evening before”), based on a text by the late-19th century Austrian novelist Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach was premiered this year. Since September 2018, Theodora co-moderates the TV series “literaTOUR” on Servus TV.


(c) GoKateShoot

(c) GoKateShoot

Sarah Wildman is a deputy editor and host of the First Person podcast at Foreign Policy. Wildman is the author of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind (Riverhead). Prior to joining FP, she was the global identities and borders writer at Vox. She was the recipient of the German Marshall Fund’s 2010 Peter R. Weitz Prize, awarded for excellence and originality in European coverage. She was an Arthur F. Burns fellow in Berlin in 2008 and a Milena Jesenska Fellow at the IWM in Vienna in 2006. Sarah has been a regular contributor to the New York TimesSlate, the ForwardWashingtonian (where she is a contributing editor), and the New Yorker online, among other publications for a long time.


(c) Amanda Sheffer

(c) Amanda Sheffer

Amanda Sheffer is a Clinical Associate Professor of German in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at The Catholic University of America. She is the 2017 recipient of the national FL-A-CH award for contributions in research and teaching of Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and South Tyrol from the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG). She is the president-elect of the national AATG FL-A-CH committee and has served as the committee’s vice-president.