An intimate portrait of immigration, family, and the heartbreaking (and sometimes hilarious) things that happen along the way from the author Colum McCann calls "the greatest writer of our generation."
In My Parents, Aleksandar Hemon tells the story of his parents' immigration from Bosnia to Canada--of the lives that were upended in the Siege of Sarajevo and the new lives his parents were forced to build. As ever with his work, Hemon portrays both the perfect, intimate details (his mother's lonely upbringing, his father's fanatical beekeeping) and a sweeping, heartbreaking history of his native country, from the rule of Otto von Bismarck to the massacres that shocked the world. It is a story full of many Hemons, of course--his parents, sister, uncles, cousins--and also of German occupying forces, Yugoslav communist revolutionary partisans, royalist Serb collaborators, and a few befuddled Canadians.
That would be enough to astound readers and yet Hemon also shares an untampered series of beautifully distilled memories and observations titled This Does Not Belong to You, the perfect complement to a major work from a major writer who is about to become unignorable.
MacArthur fellow Hemon (The Lazarus Project) recounts his Bosnian family's journey from hopeful progress to exile in this richly reflective two-volume memoir. My Parents follows his father and mother as they rose from impoverished rural backgrounds to enjoy the communist "Yugoslav Dream" good jobs, a nice apartment in Sarajevo and a vacation house until the 1992 Bosnian war forced them to flee to Canada and start over in their 50s. Hemon sets the tender and often funny story of his quirky parents against the vivid background of their nurturing (though dour and sexist) peasant culture, woven from epic war stories, food rituals, and folk songs. This Does Not Belong to You is an impressionistic, darker-edged sheaf of Hemon's boyhood memories (after his grandfather's death, "he was no longer there at all; just, where he used to be, a void"), more about writerly individualism than tribal solidarity. A lonely boy given to writing poetry on toilet paper and compulsively hunting flies (they "rubbed their little legs gleefully while I strived to catch them with a quick forehand"), Hemon weathered bullies and mooned over unattainable girls. Sometimes lively and sensual, sometimes bleakly ruminative, Hemon's recollections unite his dazzling prose style with a captivating personal narrative. Photos.