Harper Academic

Forty Autumns

A Family's Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall

By Nina Willner

To students today, the Cold War is a distant memory, as the fall of the USSR occurred in 1991, before most college students were born. It is easy for them to see the Cold War as an example of American fear and even paranoia. Students often believe that spies, subterfuge, and secret missions are the inventions of Hollywood films and popular novels, making it difficult for educators to convey the real threats, fears, and casualties of the time from 1945-1991.

Forty Autumns captures the experience of the Cold War in East Germany and the United States, told through the eyes of one family. It provides an accessible and readable way to teach students about the events of the Cold War, as well as the human cost of the oppressive regime in East Germany. The timeline at the start of the book connects the family's story to the broader Cold War, and the book clearly delineates major world events, making Forty Autumns a useful supplement as students learn about American and European history from World War II to the present.  It is a story of personal survival, a family's fortitude, and democracy's triumph over tyranny.

We hope the resources collected below will help you incorporate Forty Autumns into your courses.  Please email us at Academic@HarperCollins.com if there's anything we can help you with--including coordinating a classroom Skype session with the author!

Listen to an exclusive HarperAcademic interview with author Nina Willner:

Stephanie Schragger, a teacher at St. Ann's School in Brooklyn, discusses why the Cold War is such an important and relevant topic to teach students.

Download free PDFs of our Forty Autumns teaching guide and reading guide: