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Jeremiah James
Jeremiah James

Zoo Station: The Story Of Christiane F

The film was shot with a low budget in 1980 and released in 1981, but set between 1975 and 1977 in West Berlin. It skips the beginning and the end of the book, and concentrates on the main story, starting when Christiane begins her nightlife in Berlin at around 13 years old, and stops rather abruptly after her suicide attempt by stating that she recovered. In the real story, Christiane F. never fully recovered from her addiction, nor did her troubles end with going to Hamburg to begin withdrawal.

Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F

There were some pretty explicit scenes of drug use in Christiane F. But then there was the Bowie soundtrack. Do you think the film scared people away from heroin or glamorized it?Not everyone was put off by it. We soon had the problem that many young people thought that what I'd experienced was glamorous and romantic. Even when the book became a required text in schools, I noticed that kids were more fascinated than upset about what they read. So Stern [publishing] published a factbook, which they handed to teachers and parents, with information about how to deal with teens who were fascinated by the story of Christiane F. I hope that My Second Life scares people away from taking drugs more than my first book. I'm quite sure it will. It describes how much pain I've had in my life, and [explains] that I will die a very early and painful death.

Three of your close friends had died by the time the film came out. Did telling your story save your life?If anything, it has probably shortened it. I wouldn't have had all the royalty money, so maybe I wouldn't have been able to buy heroin for so many years. Maybe I would have got clean earlier and would be in a better condition today.

Zoo Station is a paradoxical of coming-of-age story. As Christiane F. grows up in housing projects of divided late 1970s Berlin, this intelligent young woman grows increasingly degraded by heroin addiction and prostitution. By the end of the book, Christiane is fifteen and has shot up nearly every morning for a year. The majority of the book details the worst period of her addiction when, as her most recent publisher stresses, her needs were not only chemical, but also social and emotional.

This sounds like a gripping story and I am glad to hear about one that is a real voice. The memoir that I enjoyed reading is Jack Gantos' Hole in My Life. He doesn't exactly talk about addiction but he did get arrested for smuggling drugs and he writes about that time in his life.

"An eloquent memoir of teen drug abuse from 1970s Berlin retains a contemporary feel in a new translation. Christiane F.'s story begins in childhood. Readers feel, from her 6-year-old perspective, the sense of frustration and restlessness that permeates the housing projects of Gropiusstadt and her father's violent punishments for mild infractions. At 12, she first tries alcohol, hashish and LSD, and the experiences are described with evocative imagery. That Christiane will ultimately become addicted to heroin is apparent from the first page, and a sense of tragic inevitability pervades each early anecdote. Christiane paints a grim portrait of the drugs-and-sex-work scene around Berlin's Zoo Station, but readers will also see the sense of fraught community that develops among Christiane and her friends. The strong pull of heroin is never clearer than when, after four days of brutal withdrawal, Christiane talks herself into having 'one last and final fix.' Short chapters written by Christiane's mother and a social worker, a photo spread, a foreword and editorial footnotes help contextualize Christiane's life in West Berlin. Readers might, however, wish for more information about how the memoir came to be published, and a note about HIV infection (not a possibility in Christiane's time, but certainly a risk now) would also be helpful. Disturbing but compelling."--Kirkus Reviews

"A powerful memoir first published 35 years ago in Germany (a U.S. edition and film adaptation soon followed) shows no sign of tarnish in Cartwright's mesmerizing and urgent new translation. The story of Christiane F., a heroin-addicted teenager living in 1970s Berlin, begins with her family's move from the country to a fractured and confusing existence in the Berlin projects. Christiane's bleak circumstances (her father is physically abusive, her mother permissive and absent, her teachers cold and uncaring) lead the 12-year-old to experiment with drugs. She begins with pot and alcohol--rapidly moving on to pills, acid, and finally heroin--finding excitement and intense companionship with a group of David Bowie-worshipping teenagers who populate the city's underground club scene. Eventually, Christiane resorts to working alongside her boyfriend as a prostitute at the Bahnhof Zoo train station to support her addiction. "Chapters written from the perspective of Christiane's mother and other adult figures can sometimes disrupt the hypnotic effect of Christiane's narrative, but they also offer broader insight into a vulnerable population under the influence of a devastating new drug. Christiane's uninhibited voice crackles with cynicism over the hypocrisy and arbitrary rules she observes around her ('I hated it when people talked like they also wanted to save me. I got real marriage proposals. And all the while they knew full well that they were only taking advantage of our misery, the misery of the addicts, to satisfy their own desires'), as she documents the choices that bring her further into destitution and despair. Even in moments of utter depravity, Christiane remains sympathetic and wise, with a deeply embedded sense of morality. Although Christiane's message to readers is, without a doubt, 'Do not follow me, ' she synthesizes moments of beauty and joy alongside those of horror, resulting in a deeply observant look at the search for love and meaning amid chaos."--Publishers Weekly

It is one of the most unremittingly grim portraits of drug addiction ever filmed. The only American equivalent that comes to mind is Shirley Clarke's "The Connection" (1961), but in that film the hell of heroin addiction was tempered by the story construction of the film, which evolved as a well-told play. "Christiane F." simply unfolds as one plateau of suffering lower than another, until Christiane hits a very low bottom.

This is a common story in the big cities of the world. It is relatively unusual among girls as young as Christiane (I hope), but even more unusual is the fact that she finds her own way into the heroin-and-hooker underground, without being enslaved by a pimp. The movie is relentless in depicting the drug culture of West Berlin. We see unspeakable sights: a junkie leaping over a toilet stall to yank the needle from Christine's arm and plunge it into his own, stealing her fix; Christine and her boyfriend trying to withdraw cold turkey and vomiting all over one another; the discoveries of dead overdose victims, and, unforgettably, the pale, sad faces of the junkies lined up in a subway station, all hope gone from their once-young eyes.

Christiane F. (Original German title: Wir Kinder von Bahnhof Zoo (translation: We, Children from Bahnhof Zoo note Bahnhof Zoo is a Berlin train station near the Berlin Zoo. As it serves both mainline intercity rail and the Berlin U And S Bahn, it's a major interchange for all kinds of wayfarers, its location near a major tourist attraction aside.) is a 1979 autobiography by a young teenage girl who became a heroin prostitute in Berlin during the late 1970s. Her story was compiled by two journalists who met her when she testified in a court case, who dubbed her as Christiane F. to protect her identity. The book caused a stir in Germany and was translated in many languages, even made into a 1982 movie, featuring the music of David Bowie.

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