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Failing Forward In Saarland
by Claudette E. Bouman


Failing Forward in Saarland is the memoir of a transplanted Canadian with Caribbean roots, venturing with her husband and their daughter into Saarland, Germany. The memoir describes the year the family spent in this small forested land tucked away in the western corner of Germany on the border to France. Her teenage daughter made the daily commute to attend a lycée in France and her husband spent most days doing research in labs and forests. What was the mother and wife left to do in the Saarland with next to no knowledge of the German language let alone the Frankish accent? As a career teacher, the author’s life had never before been reduced to awaiting the daily home-coming of daughter and husband. During her year in Saarland, she did much more than that. This book is an entertaining and informative account by an experienced Black teacher of what it means to transplant a family into a foreign country and how to enjoy a welcoming culture. Most significantly, this memoir is a meaningful addition to the literary corpus focusing on strangers in a strange land. Even though the author is intimately familiar with the notion — she has lived most of her adult life in Canada, far from her Barbados birthplace — she immediately faces the challenges of adjusting to the customs of a new land and, especially, learning to communicate in German. And her story is anything but ordinary — it’s a moving, often amusing, and sometimes humbling account of the author’s adventures and learning experiences in a largely unknown country without the benefit of fluency in the local language. As the title indicates, the author comes to view these challenges — and even failures — as positive “life lessons in adaptability, strength, and resilience” — failing forward.


Claudette Bouman’s book, Failing Forward, is much more than a memoir. Rather, it is a mesmerisingly poetic exploration of life’s wonders and difficulties, flowing seamlessly between the author’s memories from her youth in native Barbados, her life in her adopted country of Canada, and her and her family’s exciting but intimidating adjustments to being new temporary residents of Germany. R.F. Cook, author of The Eadaili and The Wanderer Duology. Failing Forward in Saarland is a beautifully honest examination of Bouman’s time spent living abroad in Saarland, Germany. It does not shy away from topics such as language barriers, cultural differences, or family dynamics. Bouman manages to carry the past forward in her work, frequently referencing tales from her time spent living in Barbados, and later, Canada. The effect is an informative perspective on an ex-pat’s life in Germany that is engaging and full of heart. Jen Colclough, poet A riveting book that I couldn’t stop reading. Along with depicting challenges faced by a Canadian family while living for a year in Saarland, Germany, the author includes snippets of history and geography, which I found fascinating. Though I sometimes felt as if I was a voyeur peeking out my window into someone else’s, I enjoyed every moment... Cathy MacKenzie, author of Wolves Don’t Knock.


Claudette E. Bouman lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, with her husband. Their two adult children live nearby in Halifax. Claudette was born in Barbados and immigrated to Canada where she pursued graduate studies culminating in a doctoral degree from the University of British Columbia. She worked for many years as an educator in Barbados, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia. Over the years, she has written for publications and this is her first book. Her book project was supported by the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia, Arts Nova Scotia, and the Canada Council for the Arts. Claudette was the recipient of the 2021 Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Award.


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