To use Forty Autumns to teach Cold War history, HarperCollins William Morrow has published a comprehensive academic guide. Watch the video and download the guide.
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 astoundingly destructive and oppressive regime in East Germany.
Students can read this book as they learn about American and European history from World War II to the present, and the book clearly delineates the major world events. Moreover, the timeline at the start of the book connects the family’s story to the broader Cold War.
Overall, this book provides an excellent teaching tool, as it both humanizes the Cold War and offers a window into East Germany, which was for so long a deeply oppressive and extremely secret society. Students can learn about the reality of communism, the creation of a police state, and the dangers that Westerners faced as late as the 1980s in East Germany.
Each chapter has discussion questions intended to provoke discussion or inspire writing assignments. There is a separate section with possible writing and research projects, and a list of suggested readings and websites to assist with the study of the Cold War.