Like a number of Netherlanders in the post World War II era, Inez Hollander only gradually became aware that her family had significant connections with its Dutch colonial past, including an Indonesian great-grandmother. For the most part such personal stories have been, if not entirely silenced, at least only whispered about in Holland, where society has remained uncomfortable with many aspects of its imperial rule.
Unlike the majority of memoirs that are soaked in nostalgia for tempo dulu, Hollander's sets out to come to grips with her family's past by weaving together personal records with more general, academic views of the period. She seeks not merely to locate and preserve family memories, but also to test them against a more disinterested historical record. Hers is a complicated and sometimes painful personal journey of realization, unusually mindful of the ways in which past memories and present considerations can be intermingled when we seek to understand a difficult past. Silenced Voices is an important contribution to the literature on how Dutch society has dealt with its recent colonial history.
Inez Hollander teaches in the Dutch Studies Program at UC Berkeley. Her publications include The Road from Pompey's Head: The Life and Work of Hamilton Basso and a memoir, Awakening from the American Dream.