My Name Is Bosnia by Madeleine Gagnon , Translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott
Finalist for QWF Translation Prize in 2007
Sabaheta is a literature student at the University of Sarajevo when war breaks out in Bosnia-Herzegovina. After her brother is taken from the family by armed thugs and her mother descends into madness, she goes into the forest with her father to join the guerrillas, where she dresses like a boy and fights side-by-side with the men.
When her father is killed in combat, Sabaheta gives him a makeshift funeral and vows one day to leave her homeland and seek a country where she can pursue her studies and live in peace. Although she is not an observant Muslim, she decides once again to wear the traditional headscarf, and changes her name to Bosnia, making her way alone to Sarajevo to reunite with her friends. After many months, having burned every available piece of furniture to keep warm, they are forced to burn their books, their most precious possessions. Chapter by chapter, they consign each book to memory before setting it alight, and then recite it by heart in front of the fire.
Finally escaping their genocidal homeland, they rise from its ashes of violence and hatred, remaking themselves in the images kept in their hearts of a fabled new life in a foreign land. My Name Is Bosnia is Madeleine Gagnon’s celebration of the power of the imagination to heal and remake our lives.
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