Laura M. Fabrycky is the author of Keys to Bonhoeffer's Haus: Exploring the World and Wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We asked Laura a few questions to learn about the inspiration behind her book and what she hopes you’ll gain from your journey with Bonhoeffer.
What brought you to the Bonhoeffer-Haus and led you to write this book?
I would have never visited the Bonhoeffer-Haus if our family was not already living in Berlin. For me, Bonhoeffer was a "local interest,” and certainly not someone I imagined writing a whole book about when we moved there! But I’m immensely grateful that Bonhoeffer was my conversation partner because he was, in some ways, also my neighbor; there was plenty of research and good writing about him, and the people who serve at the Haus so kindly welcomed me as they do all visitors.
As I began learning about Bonhoeffer and learning to tell his story, the germ of the idea to write about my experience emerged. It was a confluence of grace and the generosity and kindness of others that made it possible for me to do so. I needed the process of writing to synthesize what I had learned there, a labor that was a gift to me as well.
Now we're in Belgium, and I'm already pursuing local places and histories, seeing what's there to discover, and playing with ideas. We miss Berlin, its people, and its places, which is true for every place we live.
As you move around the world, what are some things you do to develop a sense of "place" in each new location? Does it change from country to country, or are there things you find yourself doing each time?
Certain things remain constant in our home: the people, certain pieces of art, overly full bookshelves. Each country we’ve lived in has its own fascinating history, and we always feel enriched by learning as much as we can about each culture. My husband and I share a love of ideas and learning about history. I’ve always been more of a bookish traveler, preferring to revisit what’s familiar. He’s expansive, likes to hit the trails and sights, and find the yet-to-be-explored. I have learned how to be curious about people and places, which I think takes practice. It means learning to ask questions and then being willing to listen to the answer.
Who did you envision as your audience? How did that influence your writing?
I envisioned my reader no differently than a visitor to the Bonhoeffer-Haus. More so, writing the book while also still giving tours helped me to make that connection stronger. I credit my editor, Emily Brower, who challenged me early on to confront a growing thesis in my early drafts, namely that one had to set foot inside the Bonhoeffer-Haus to “get it.” She gently reminded me just how much I had learned from books in my own Bonhoeffer study, the journeys I made in other people’s written thinking and discoveries. That helped me to see that what one experienced in the Haus was far more common to life everywhere. Because it was common, I needed to articulate to as wide an audience as I could. She helped me write a deeply humanistic, even personalistic account, which is also a reflection of Bonhoeffer’s influence in my thinking. I am indebted.
How have other writers helped you?
A younger writer recently asked me this question, and I love it so much because any honest writer will admit how much they need others to do what they do. I’ve already mentioned my editor, but I’ve also received so much generous help from Bonhoeffer scholars, both professional and amateur, in sharing knowledge and encouragement, and helping me make connections. I think that’s what people do when they truly love a subject––they don’t hoard their knowledge like a dragon on a pile of gold. They are eager to see it shared, and to see how the nourishment benefits others. Knowledge held with love is powerful and free.
What do you hope a reader will take away from your book? How will a journey in your book influence them?
When they close the cover after reading the final page, I hope the reader will taste, even smell, a bit of hope, and also become aware of a small fire burning within them. We are saturated in narratives that have warped our civic and moral imaginations, and we are smothered by distractions. We don’t feel we have much ground to stand on, together, anymore. I hope my book will encourage others to look at their places, find the stories around them, and see the connections. I hope that they will pay attention to the history of their neighborhoods, know their living neighbors, and acknowledge the stories of the dead, and that in doing so, they will discover again how much shared ground there is under our feet.
To learn more about Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus, click here.