cover image My Parents: An Introduction/This Does Not Belong to You

My Parents: An Introduction/This Does Not Belong to You

Aleksandar Hemon. MCD, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-21743-3

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. (June)