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Monroe Price says he has always struggled to resolve the two conflicting sides of his identity: refugee and American.

This is the conflict Annenberg professor Price addresses in his new book, Objects of Remembrance: A Memoir of American Opportunities and Viennese Dreams. Wednesday night, Price spoke at the Penn Bookstore about his journey to become a U.S. citizen from a displaced Viennese refugee.

In his memoir, Price analyzes the conflict hundreds of Jews felt upon arriving in the United States during and after World War II. The refugees’ stories reveled in the “uniqueness of the escape” — the arbitrariness of who lived or died.

“It is the retelling of Eden where the rules suddenly change and the semi-paradise is lost,” he read aloud from his book.

In particular, Price discussed his own personal journey as a refugee. He described his experience leaving Vienna and arriving in the United States in 1939 as undramatic compared with the journeys taken by those affected by the Holocaust. Although members of his mother’s family were left in Vienna to be persecuted or even killed, he personally never had to hide in an attic or survive in a concentration camp.

“I may have survived and had a close call, but I am not a survivor,” Price emphasized.

He was also already connected to the United States through his family — his relatives founded the first school for the deaf in New York in the 1850s.

But despite his self-proclaimed easy lot, Price had to face the destruction of his family’s entire way of life. He was forced to reinstate himself as a fourth-generation American.

Price also said telling his story in memoir form was “very different than writing an academic book.”

“I had to dig inside myself,” he said, “grab into my stomach and brain to find resources that I didn’t know were there.”

Price said the process of writing the book altered his perception of Austria, bringing him ultimately closer to his hometown of Vienna. He views himself as one of the last Jews born in the Vienna it once was.

Audience members said they enjoyed hearing about a different side of a Penn professor.

“You know someone in a certain context, and then get a completely different picture,” said Libby Morgan, who edited Price’s book, adding that the event gave her insights into his life that she would never have gotten otherwise.

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