Who Am I? My Stories and Philosophies: The Autobiography of a Somebody or Nobody or Anybody?
by Rolf Harms
Trafford Publishing

"Whether sad events or happy memories, the experiences of my life have made an exciting journey for me."

Born in Germany in the latter years of World War II, author Harms has early memories of Allied aircraft attacks, bombings, and the loss of his father. His mother, though deeply traumatized, managed to keep working as a farm laborer and seamstress to support him, despite many obstacles. As a boy, Harms had visions of adventure in faraway lands, and at age fifteen, he acted on those visions, joining the German Merchant Marines. His very first sea voyage was to New York City, “providing many firsts.” The first American he met was also the first black man he had ever seen; the man’s good humor in communicating with Harms though they had no shared language impressed the lad deeply.

Gradually, Harms learned English, and when he chose to refuse a certain shipping assignment, inadvertently became an illegal immigrant in America. Through determination, he ultimately gained a green card and then US citizenship. He entered the complex world of commerce, rising very quickly to management in the American Express credit card conglomerate where his skill with language and understanding of other cultures served him well. After one sadly failed marriage, he found the woman of his dreams. With her, he established a private real estate business. Although it meant a step down financially, it allowed their relationship to flourish. Harms now reminisces about the serendipities and vicissitudes of his fascinating life history, and this vibrant autobiography is the result.

Though Harms is modest regarding his education and grasp of English, his story is presented in vivid, readable detail. His grasp of irony and other subtle humor is evident. For example, while still a teenager in a new land, he recalls that he “was unaware that it is illegal to take a pee on the beach in Newport News.” He leaves it to the reader to imagine “how I finally came to understand my infraction” when confronted by a kindly policeman. He describes the ins and outs of the credit card business, with an interesting sidebar regarding the ways in which certain people have plotted to hack and defraud companies like AMEX. He has gathered a fair amount of supportive information for this memoir, including his accumulated wisdom regarding such business scams and his role in combatting them, along with the creative CV he constructed when he found himself legally in the US, unemployed, and with only a high school education and some work background as a sailor. On the personal side, he shares some sober truths divulged to him in his middle years—truths that might have caused a stronger or less open-hearted person to turn to despair, instead of, as he declares, to a new beginning.

In the latter chapters, Harms examines some wider issues, thoughtfully addressing the question posed in the book’s title. He gleans truth from Christian scripture inspired by his Puerto Rican family members as well as offering brief quotations from noted philosophers from Plato. Aristotle, Locke, Kierkegaard, Jung, Freud, Sartre, and others. He concludes that he, like all of us, is “the sum of our total experiences.” Those experiences, he contends, will dictate the choices we make in life. His recollections and the viewpoint he has derived from them will be of interest to a wide readership. His book has been recognized with a Trafford Gold Seal of Literary Excellence and is a Finalist in the Eric Hoffer Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing.

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