Kathleen Wheaton, the author of "Aliens and Other Stories," has lived in numerous countries - as a journalist, a travel writer and a translator. She was born in Germany and lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
Her book shows, in 12 interlinked stories, what it's like to be uprooted and given sanctuary in a foreign country.
Many of the main characters have either found a place to live - hardly "home," in Argentina and some have found such a place in America, escaping the "dirty war" of the Argentine military after the fall of Peron. With a compassionate pen, Wheaton describes their struggle to live a normal life after tortuous circumstances drove them away from all they knew and loved.
One such subject became a successful playwright in America but scars on his wrists from torture in Argentina gave a clue to the transformation he had adopted when Amnesty International had obtained his release from the military regime. His perfect manners covered his former persona as an Argentine playboy. He put on a personality as you would put on a new set of clothes.
Many of the characters are haunted by the uncertain fate of loved ones who had "disappeared" during the military junta. Rumors, later confirmed, said the military had taken their victims after torture and dropped them from airplanes into the ocean, far from shore. Unlike their Nazi counterparts, they kept no records of their atrocities.
In the final story, two couples finding sanctuary in Argentina came from Nazi Germany.
The couple living upstairs were Jews who got out just in time. The couple on the first floor were Germans who had worked in a minor role in Hitler's regime.
Neither husband would allow his wife to even look at the other wife. Years later, shortly after the death of their husbands, Frau Elsa greeted Frau Greta as she was descending the stairs, "Guten tag, Frau Greta," she said. "Guten tag, Frau Elsa," she replied.
In time, compassion and forgiveness prevailed.
Kathleen Wheaton will be a guest author at Otto's 172nd anniversary party from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Otto's, 107 W. Fourth St.