Christiane F. was a book that was published in Germany in 1979, under the original title of Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (We kids from Zoo station). It was written by two journalists, Kai Hermann and Horst Rieck. The book tells, in her own words, the story of a German girl called Christiane Felscherinow who became addicted to heroin in 1976, when she was thirteen years old, and who started prostituting herself within the same year.

The book tells Christiane's story in her own words. She moved to Berlin with her family when she was six, into a newly built suburb where there was very little to do for children. Her parents divorced and her mother had to work long hours to earn enough money, leaving her daughters to fend for themselves. When Christiane was twelve, the only place in the neighbourhood where there was any fun to be had was the Protestant youth centre Haus der Mitte. Unfortunately, this youth centre is also a lively trading centre for drugs.

As all the cool kids are the kids using drugs, Christiane soon starts smoking pot and taking LSD and all kinds of pills. With a friend from school she starts going to Sound, 'the most modern discotheque in Europe'. Here, there is also a lively drugs scene and here she also meets het boyfriend Detlef. He is using heroin, and it doesn't take long before Christiane also tries it at a David Bowie concert in Berlin. At first, she gets her heroin from Detlef who earns his money with prostitution, but shortly after her fourteenth birthday Christiane herself is also forced to take up prostitiution to earn enough for the heroin they both need.

After that, the book tells the story about the daily life of an addict: trying to find enough money, trying to get enough heroin, fighting over money and drugs and ruining your friendships, trying to stay away from the police, trying to kick the habit and then finding out that without the drug there is nothing left and starting to use again.

Christiane's parents find out what is going on and try to help her, by locking her up, sending her to Narconon, anything. Each time the habit proves to be stronger. The drug habit makes it impossible for Christiane to do well in school, so she is soon kicked out and her chances of a decent job in the future are minimal. All her friends are in the drug scene, as well as her boyfriend, and after a while she has no other interests. The drug clinics that existed at the time were not equipped for children of that age. All these factors made stopping almost impossible.

The book ends when Christiane's mother finally puts her on a plane to her family in Hamburg, to take her away from Berlin and all drug-related things. There she gets clean and tries to start a normal life again.

Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo was made into a movie by Uli Edel in 1981. It stars Natja Brunckhorst as Christiane and David Bowie as himself. The movie won first prize at the Montreal World Film Festival and the Germany Golden Screen 1981.

After the book and the movie, Christiane was a 'star' for a while. She promoted the movie and even recorded a song. After that, she disappeared from the public eye for several years. She gave interviews in 2003 and 2004. She is now a mother and lives from the royalties from the book, trying to live as normally as possible and be a good mother.

Both the book and the movie are used in Dutch schools as a part of drug education. I myself never saw the movie. I got the book from my grandfather when I was about nine or ten years old,and when I first read it I wasn't all too shocked. When you're that age, thirteen seems old enough to do almost anything. Even the fact that Christiane's best friend, Babsi, died from an overdose at age twelve, didn't seem all too strange.

When I re-read the book for this writeup, the facts seemed much more shocking. Christiane 'sounds' much older than her age however, and she considers every thing she says to be quite logical, so it's difficult to fully grasp the whole picture. I imagine that the movie would be much more shocking, because you can SEE how absurdly young these kids are. Still, the book gives a clear picture of what a heroin addiction is like and why you'd want to avoid it...

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