Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: My Name is Bosnia by Madeleine Gagnon

“Who would have imagined that in wartime you could want so much to love?”

Sabaheta, despite her young age, has experienced great loss and violence. Her brother is taken by thugs, causing her mother to retreat into madness. Sabaheta turns herself into a boy to join her father and the guerillas fighting in the forests until the day her father is killed. After burying him in a makeshift grave, Sabaheta changes her name to Bosnia and returns to her life in Sarajevo as a female in hopes of finding friends and a way to escape.

Back in Sarajevo, Bosnia finds her friend Adila still resides in their student apartment with her partner Marina. The reunion with friends provides Bosnia with comfort and a brief respite, although the daily search for food and water is still fraught with peril. The girls benefit from supplies their friend Adem gets through his position with the Bosnian resistance army. After several months with supplies and fuel running low, the girls dream of finding a way to leave their birthplace and find a country where they can live in peace; however, the price for that peace may be more than they are willing to pay.

My Name is Bosnia developed from Madeleine Gagnon’s research for her non-fiction work Women in a World at War: Seven Dispatches from the Front. Her research took her to the former Yugoslav republics of Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina; Israel and Palestine; Lebanon; Pakistan; and Sri Lanka where she collected stories from women whose lives have been torn apart by war. As Rachel Hanel states in her review of Women in a World at War: “They’ve endured horrors most of us raised in the Western world could only dream of – living in a rape “camp,” having a baby girl killed because she is not a boy, or seeing most male family members – fathers, brothers, sons -- brutally killed in war.”

The greatest gift humankind has is hope. Despite war and conflict, people still fall in love, have children and dream of a new life. My Name is Bosnia is Gagnon’s meditation on maintaining hope during the worst examples of human violence. Having lost everything except Adem, Bosnia pushes forward into the future. “But she did not want to dwell on memories; she had submitted herself to the duty of forgetting in order to survive. So she appealed to the future and threw herself into endless scenarios of which she was the heroine – when you’ve come out of hell, it is hard to imagine a happy fate other than your own.”

Keeping hope alive not only provides a future for survivors, it is also their responsibility. It some cases, they are the sole remnants of their culture, language or religion. Their survival ensures that the world will never be able to forget. Even though Bosnia does not always see a destination when she looks into the future, she continues forward. This is the message that Gagnon wishes to share with readers, no matter what how large or small the conflict face, people must move take the first step forward. Hope must be maintained.

Read the review at Curled Up with a Good Book.

ISBN10: 0889225427
ISBN13: 9780889225428

Trade Paperback
256 Pages
Publisher: Talonbooks Ltd.
Publication Date: August 25, 2006

Talonbooks Ltd. - Publishing from the Margins

About Talonbooks Ltd.:
Talonbooks Ltd., founded in Vancouver in 1967, publishes authors of international stature, writing in the literary genres of poetry, fiction and drama, as well as non-fiction books in the fields of ethnography and environmental and social issues. Its authors' books continue to make a difference to the world we live in. They have contributed to the establishment of protected wilderness areas and the redress of social injustices; they have given a public voice to First Nations peoples; and they have been recipients of many prestigious national and international awards for arts and letters. (Information courtesy of Literary Press Group of Canada)


1 comment:

Lauren said...

Nice! I have this book on my TBR!