Marie Pal-Brown

Read an Excerpt //  Meet the Author //  Testimonials/Reviews //  News & Links //  Contact
Daughter of the Enemy: A memoir

Daughter of the Enemy: A Memoir by Marie Pal-BrownA child is born in a time of war, and when she is five years old, her father, a soldier in the German Wehrmacht, is killed in battle. Not until that child is older will she understand the full horror of her country’s role in that war. Then begins a long and painful reckoning, a quest for identity and a way to remember a father beloved but, nevertheless, on the wrong side of history. Marie Pal-Brown’s moving and beautifully written memoir faces, without flinching, the complexity of that reckoning. Daughter of the Enemy is both a personal and social history – it recounts how women and children survived the hardships of WWII and postwar Germany, and how a ravaged country succumbed to the silence surrounding the Holocaust. It weaves, from the frayed strands of memory, a fully human accounting of coming to terms with hard truths, finally creating a tender memorial to the father lost in war. The story is a journey, and the journey is a story that has been waiting to be told.

Daughter of the Enemy, published by Lagoon House Press, is available, internationally, in print and ebook versions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, as well as in bookstores.

Inscribed and autographed copies of Daughter of the Enemy may be purchased through Lagoon House Press,

Read an Excerpt

Snowflakes tumbled past the only window in the room, settling on the exterior sill and blanketing the winter-brown meadow and the footpath to the highway below. Stillness enveloped everything but for the occasional bleating of a sheep from the barn. It was a stillness so deep, it hushed the ordinary sounds in the front room.

My drawing finished, I dragged a chair to the window. I climbed on the seat and, with my finger, traced snowmen on the steamed-up glass. Small ones and larger ones, as many as would fit in between the wooden mullions, on as many panes as I could reach.

A figure in the distance caught my eye. Pressing my face close to the glass, I was able to make out a man trudging along the path toward the house. He wore a long military coat and cap. He walked deliberately, slowly pulling his boots out of the deep snow with each step.

“A soldier!” I cried out, delighted at the prospect of having a visitor.

The Köppel’s older daughter rushed over, abandoning her basket of beans. She wiped a pane with the side of her hand, blotting out my snowmen, and peered into the white landscape. In a voice, high-pitched with cheer, she turned to my mother. “Das muss Ihr Mann sein! Aus’em Krieg zurück! – That must be your husband! Back from the war!”

I scrambled off the chair. I wanted to be the one to open the front door and greet my father. But Mother grabbed my arm. She held me back. It startled me.

"No! It’s not him,” she said, as if she were afraid to jinx the small odds that it was her husband, were she to give credence to any hope she had.

She walked out into the hallway, having decided, it seemed, to answer the door anyway.

I followed, puzzled by Mother's apparent change of mind, and by the women's abrupt silence.

Flat winter light from the transom above the front door spread across the black and white tiles, spotless except for a few footprints closest to the outdoors. Every Saturday, the sisters scrubbed the floor on their knees.

Mother opened the door. The stranger stood there waiting, silhouetted against an empty sky. It had stopped snowing. He took off his cap. He stamped and shuffled his feet. Snow fell off his boots. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. His face, now visible in the interior light, was that of a serious looking man in his middle years.

"Frau Schupp?" he said, addressing Mother.

She nodded.

“Ich habe die traurige Pflicht, Ihnen mitteilen zu müssen, dass Ihr Gatte gefallen ist. – It is my sad duty to inform you that your husband has been killed in action.” His words sounded rehearsed, his speech clipped.

Mother cried out, just a little. I reached for her hand with mine, but she shook it off impatiently, as if to say, Not now, not now.

The stranger pulled a letter from his coat's breast pocket. He unfolded it and read its contents in a solemn manner. I heard the words, but they were only words, words beyond my comprehension. Even when he said, “Kopfschuss. Ihr Gatte war auf der Stelle tot. – Shot in the head. Your husband died instantly,” it meant nothing.

He finished reading, handed Mother the letter and dropped his head in silence. After a polite pause, he shook her hand and stroked my head lightly.

“My deepest sympathies,” he said and, raising his arm, saluted, “Heil Hitler!”

He turned sharply on his heels. He opened the door and, stepping outside, pulled it shut behind him. It closed with a dull thud.

Meet the Author

Marie Pal-Brown   Daughter of the Enemy is an “accidental” memoir: Writing my own story had never been my aspiration. It evolved from a letter to my dead father, written as an exercise in a workshop. It explored the memory of learning about his death as a soldier in the German Wehrmacht, and eventually became the first chapter of the book. After that unintentional jumpstart, I felt driven to continue writing about my personal history against the background of wartime and postwar Germany.

Born and raised in a small town near Cologne, Germany, I studied English Language & Literature at Durham University, England, took exams at Cambridge, and completed my education in English Language Studies at the SDI in Munich, with a graduate degree. As an English/German language researcher, I co-authored three works of lexicography.

After emigrating to the United States and raising three children, I began writing personal essays and poetry. My collection Your Broad Hands Touching Me is forthcoming. My poems have been included in various anthologies.

Daughter of the Enemy is my first venture into the long narrative form.

While I attribute my greatest influence to the German writer Christa Wolf and the German-language poet Rainer Maria Rilke, I am an avid reader of English-language literature – Marilynne Robinson, Alice Munro, Colm Toibin, Christian Wiman, Louise Glück, Charles Wright, Holly Prado, to mention a few.

For the past ten years, I’ve resided in Long Beach, California, with my husband, the actor Garrett M. Brown.

Testimonials and Reviews

“The best memoirs draw you into another person's world in intimate and moving ways. Daughter of the Enemy does just that, specifically evoking the author's conflicted girlhood of hardships as WWII draws to a close in her native Germany. Throughout the postwar years, just as the fractured nation must face its tragic past and what the future might hold, the author struggles through loss, guilt, and forgiveness to ultimately come to terms with who she truly is.”

     Jean Hastings Ardell
     Co-author, Making My Pitch: A Woman's Baseball Odyssey

Daughter of the Enemy is not just a compelling and superbly written account of the author’s experience growing up in West Germany after World War II, but it is the story of a generation. Pal-Brown’s memoir makes an important contribution to postwar social history by grounding its portrait of everyday life in the historical moment. The book offers a rare and nuanced depiction of girlhood which illuminates the connections between gender violence and the brutality of war. Pal-Brown has crafted a sophisticated narrative that succeeds because of its larger stakes. On the one hand, the author’s intermittent reflection on the genre of memoir foregrounds its fundamental concern with the reconstruction not of the past, but of memory and its lapses. She does this while simultaneously capturing the truth and immediacy of her younger self’s lived experiences. Both impulses bring substance to the structuring absence produced by her father's death and to the willful repression of the horrors of the Holocaust and World War II by the previous generation. Daughter of the Enemy is a gripping personal narrative as well as a thoughtful intervention into the German project of reckoning with the past.”

     Alison Guenther-Pal, Ph.D.,
     Associate Professor of German Studies, Lawrence University

“Marie Pal-Brown's suspenseful and vivid account grants the reader entry into the mind and psyche of a German child living through the end of WWII and the vicissitudes of its aftermath. A memoir of an individuation like hers is a treasure -- a life's work. A valuable example of a writer gathering her memories to lay the groundwork for a final healing.”

     Patrick Roth
     Author, Starlite Terrace

“I was completely captured from the very first page of this powerful memoir. Rarely do we hear testimonials of the tragedy of war from the perspective of the "enemy". Marie Pal-Brown provides just that. She eloquently elaborates with magnificent detail the gripping events she lives through, helping the reader to find empathy for all of war's victims.

The writing is deeply personal, emotionally descriptive and evidence of a serious and persistent self-reflection. It is the story of a young girl's struggle to comprehend and cope with the enormous tragedy of war, how this young girl emerges into adulthood to gradually shed the shame of being a "daughter of the enemy," and finally achieves some semblance of understanding and acceptance. This memoir, written in the voice of a “daughter of the enemy," is one that is unique and rarely considered, yet so valuable to hear. It reminds us that we typically honor the "victor" and rarely empathize with the "enemy.”

Ms. Pal-Brown’s book is a testimony to what, I imagine, was a long and difficult journey to remember and process truly traumatic experiences, and, as a result, a cathartic one. I am glad she found the courage. We all are better for it. I was so moved that I looked for and found her childhood home in Delrath, Germany, on Google Maps, in order to be even closer to her. Anyone drawn to the human experience and history of humankind will find “Daughter of the Enemy” a book worth reading.”

Congratulations and my highest regard to Ms. Pal-Brown for this remarkable work.

     David M. Pratt, Ph.D.

Amazon Readers had this to say...

Amazing story of fortitude and resilience!

It is rare to find a narrative autobiography of such historical importance. I found this story compelling and could not stop reading it. It touched me with its lyrical beauty; painting lush images in my mind as I read. I felt transported to another time and place and it helped me to see that there are two sides to every story. The story is relevant for our times. It shows the dangers of tribalism and "the ends justifies the means" mentalities. The inherent danger for the mother and little children as they made their way back to their home town was so suspenseful, I had to keep reading to see how it all transpired. It is nothing short of miraculous that the little girl in this story (the author, Marie Pal-Brown), overcame hardship and turmoil in a time of deadly peril and grew up to be an extraordinary writer. The fact that her first language is German is amazing given the precise descriptions and recollections she has written in English. It is a literary masterpiece that I hope you will read and devour as I did.

Scene after scene of almost unbearable poignancy

To write fluently in a second language is a notable accomplishment. To do so simply and exquisitely, conjuring again and again the perfect and effortless image, that I would call a near impossibility. Conrad, a Pole, was able to do so in English, as was Nabokov, a Russian. But do any German writers come easily to mind? Perhaps some more knowledgeable reviewer can provide me a name. But, in my view, Marie Pal-Brown pulls off this impossible feat in page after page of this unforgettable memoir of her traumatic girlhood in postwar Germany. (I was interested to learn, by the way, in her acknowledgments to the book, that she took special pains to deconstruct her own tendency toward “run-on sentences, that multi-clausal structure prevalent among many German-speaking writers.”)

Bravo, Marie! You have given us your brave story powerfully and indelibly, in a scene after scene of almost unbearable poignancy, exquisitely observed and cinematic in sequencing. (How’s that for a run-on sentence?)

A Finely Wrought Memoir

A little German girl loses her father in WWII, grows up in war-torn, then post war Germany, becomes a conscientious young woman, emigrates to America, marries, raises three kids and eventually returns to Germany and Latvia, where her father died, in search of his remains and his memory. It is a gripping story, finely detailed; a universal conundrum and theme, who is my father, from what and who have I emerged? Which becomes a dedicated and heartfelt search that calls up what the postwar generation of Germans have grappled with, the horrors, the nihilistic ideology, the silence, the guilt, shame and burgeoning conscience that allows one young woman to evolve—written with such grace, poignancy, power. This memoir is what we once upon a time called 'fine literature'—it is a monumental book and brings an untold point of view to the library of WWII literature—a gift, an achievement and a tender legacy.

Unique perspective/memoir

I found Marie Pal-Brown's memoir extremely moving and a compelling read. I was drawn in from the very first page of acknowledgments and her vivid description of what brought her to write this memoir. I admit to crying while reading the acknowledgments. The author shares her personal story of being born to a German soldier; of loving her father while experiencing many conflicting emotions that will later be raised as she begins to understand the atrocities of WWII. We first see Marie Pal-Brown as a five year old child who learns that her father has been killed. Besides sharing the hardships of post war Germany, we learn of her desire to have a better understanding of the world and why we exist - delving into her relationships with her mother, the Catholic church, and a variety of friends/fellow students. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir. I plan to read it again!

News & Links

Media Kit (download PDF)  

Reading Schedule:

To schedule a reading, please call (310) 991-3215

Thursday, April 25, 2019
Reading and Discussion
Lawrence University
Main Hall Forum
Appleton, WI

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Lawrence University
Non-Fiction Creative Writing Program
Appleton, WI

Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Reading and Discussion
German Department
Long Beach, CA

Saturday, March 23, 2019
Reading and Discussion
(Private event)
Irvine, CA

Sunday, March 17, 2019
(Private event)
Marina del Rey, CA

Sunday, March 10, 2019, 7 p.m.
Ruskin Group Theater Company
Library Girl
Readings by Richard Heller & Marie Pal-Brown
3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90405

Friday, February 23, 2019
Skype Presentation
German Studies Department
Lawrence University
Appleton, WI

Thursday, February 21, 2019
Fremont PTA Alumnae
(Private event)
Long Beach, CA

Sunday, February 17, 2019
BHCA Book Club
(Private event)
Long Beach, CA

Sunday, January 20, 2019, 3 p.m.
Gatsby Books
5535 Spring Street, Long Beach, CA 90808

Thursday, January 10, 2019, 6:30 p.m.
Long Beach Public Library
Bayshore Branch
195 Bayshore Ave, Long Beach, CA 90803

Sunday, November 25, 2018, 4 p.m.
(Private event)
Manhattan, NY 10003

Tuesday, November 20, 2018, 8 p.m.
(Private event)
Weehawken, NJ 07086



  Daughter of the Enemy Receives National Recognition from
  The 7th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards®!

Beverly Hills, California -- The 7th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards® announced that Marie Pal-Brown’s Daughter of the Enemy was a finalist in the Memoir category.

Established in 2013, the Beverly Hills Book Awards® competition is judged by experts from all aspects of the book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book designers and professional copywriters. Contest winners and finalists are determined based on “overall excellence of presentation – a synergy of form and content” over a wide range of genres.

"We are proud to announce the winners and finalists whose books truly embody the excellence that this award was created to celebrate, and we salute you all for your fine work" – Ellen Reid, Founder BHBA.

Daughter of the Enemy is both a personal and social history – it recounts how women and children survived the hardships of WWII and postwar Germany, and how a ravaged country succumbed to the silence surrounding the Holocaust. It weaves, from the frayed strands of memory, a fully human accounting of coming to terms with hard truths, finally creating a tender memorial to the father lost in war. The story is a journey, and the journey is a story that has been waiting to be told.

Reading at the Bayshore Branch of the Long Beach Public Library

A discussion of thoughtful comments and questions followed the reading at the Bayshore Branch of the Long Beach Public Library on January 10, 2019. The audience consisted of the Library book club and members of the public.

Reading at Gatsby Books, Long Beach

Another wonderful gathering for a reading at Gatsby Books, Long Beach, Sunday, January 20, 2019. (Gatsby Books is the only surviving independent bookseller in the area, with well-stocked shelves of a diverse selection of new and used books.)
Daughter of the Enemy is well received at a NYC private event in late November.  

Garrett Brown, Marie's husband, welcomes the guests and introduces Marie.

Marie reading to a gathering of more than thirty interested New Yorkers.

Marie with Ute Fruehling, her German high school friend, who was visiting the US. In the Q&A that followed the reading, Ute related that she shared many of Marie's post-war experiences and struggles with Germany's past.

The discussion continued long after the reading was over.

Marie and actor Polly Adams, who generously hosted the event In NYC.

The current New Non-Fiction display at the Bayshore Branch Library in Long Beach. The current New Non-Fiction display at the Bayshore Branch Library in Long Beach.

Chris Magree Chris Magree, who works at the Bay Shore Library in Long Beach as a “Library Page Extraordinaire,” purchased 12 copies of Daughter of the Enemy and donated one each to every branch in the Long Beach Public Library system. Thank you, Chris!

Marie Pal-Brown Daughter of the Enemy launched in mid August to an audience of more than 130 interested readers. Guests traveled to the event from all around the Los Angeles area; out-ot-towners included people from Wisconsin, Phoenix, New York, Indiana, Seattle and Germany.
Daughter of the Enemy book reading  
Daughter of the Enemy book reading  
Daughter of the Enemy book signing  

Marie Pal-Brown’s Earlier Work

Systematischer Englischer Wortschatz

co-authored with Wolf Friederich
Studentenverein, München

Systematischer Englischer Wortschatz
Family, Household, Food

co-authored with Wolf Friederich
Studentenverein, München

Marie Pal-Brown’s writings have been included in the following anthologies:

Tender Ears
Edited by Linda Berg, Ph.D. & Toke Hoppenbrouwers, Ph.D.
Monte Nido Press

Chance of a Ghost
Edited by Gloria Vando & Philip Miller
Helicon Nine Editions



For more information, please contact me:

© 2018 Marie Pal-Brown. All rights reserved