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

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Two books in one in a flip dos-�-dos format: The story of Aleksandar Hemon's parents' immigration from Sarajevo to Canada and a book of short memories of the author's family, friends, and childhood in Sarajevo In My Parents, Aleksandar Hemon tells the story of his parents' immigration to Canada--of the lives that were upended by the war in Bosnia and siege of Sarajevo and t Two books in one in a flip dos-�-dos format: The story of Aleksandar Hemon's parents' immigration from Sarajevo to Canada and a book of short memories of the author's family, friends, and childhood in Sarajevo In My Parents, Aleksandar Hemon tells the story of his parents' immigration to Canada--of the lives that were upended by the war in Bosnia and siege of Sarajevo and the new lives his parents were forced to build. As ever with his work, he 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. It is a story full of many Hemons, of course--his parents, sister, uncles, cousins--and also of German occupying forces, Yugoslav partisans, royalist Serb collaborators, singing Ukrainians, and a few befuddled Canadians. My Parents is Hemon at his very best, grounded in stories lovingly polished by retelling, but making them exhilarating and fresh in writing, summoning unexpected laughs in the midst of the heartbreaking narratives. This Does Not Belong to You, meanwhile, is the exhilarating, freewheeling, unabashedly personal companion to My Parents--a perfect dose of Hemon at his most dazzling and untempered in a series of beautifully distilled memories and observations and explosive, hilarious, poignant miniatures. Presented dos-�-dos with My Parents, it complements and completes a major work from a major writer. In the words of Colum McCann, "Aleksandar Hemon is, quite frankly, the greatest writer of our generation." Hemon has never been better than here in these pages. And the moment has never been more ready for his voice, nor has the world ever been more in need of it.


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Two books in one in a flip dos-�-dos format: The story of Aleksandar Hemon's parents' immigration from Sarajevo to Canada and a book of short memories of the author's family, friends, and childhood in Sarajevo In My Parents, Aleksandar Hemon tells the story of his parents' immigration to Canada--of the lives that were upended by the war in Bosnia and siege of Sarajevo and t Two books in one in a flip dos-�-dos format: The story of Aleksandar Hemon's parents' immigration from Sarajevo to Canada and a book of short memories of the author's family, friends, and childhood in Sarajevo In My Parents, Aleksandar Hemon tells the story of his parents' immigration to Canada--of the lives that were upended by the war in Bosnia and siege of Sarajevo and the new lives his parents were forced to build. As ever with his work, he 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. It is a story full of many Hemons, of course--his parents, sister, uncles, cousins--and also of German occupying forces, Yugoslav partisans, royalist Serb collaborators, singing Ukrainians, and a few befuddled Canadians. My Parents is Hemon at his very best, grounded in stories lovingly polished by retelling, but making them exhilarating and fresh in writing, summoning unexpected laughs in the midst of the heartbreaking narratives. This Does Not Belong to You, meanwhile, is the exhilarating, freewheeling, unabashedly personal companion to My Parents--a perfect dose of Hemon at his most dazzling and untempered in a series of beautifully distilled memories and observations and explosive, hilarious, poignant miniatures. Presented dos-�-dos with My Parents, it complements and completes a major work from a major writer. In the words of Colum McCann, "Aleksandar Hemon is, quite frankly, the greatest writer of our generation." Hemon has never been better than here in these pages. And the moment has never been more ready for his voice, nor has the world ever been more in need of it.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    'True history is always played out on a personal level.' Rtc

  2. 4 out of 5

    Craig Barner

    Aleksandar Hemon cements his reputation as one the finest writers worldwide with his compelling two-part memoir: My Parents: An Introduction in tandem with This Does Not Belong to You. He depicts his Ukrainian-descended upbringing in the former Yugoslavian province of Bosnia as a socialist paradise. Life as lived and expressed in music, food, storytelling and dozens of other ways was automatically deep with meaning and pleasure. Danger and even evil, however, shadow Hemon's recollection of the Sa Aleksandar Hemon cements his reputation as one the finest writers worldwide with his compelling two-part memoir: My Parents: An Introduction in tandem with This Does Not Belong to You. He depicts his Ukrainian-descended upbringing in the former Yugoslavian province of Bosnia as a socialist paradise. Life as lived and expressed in music, food, storytelling and dozens of other ways was automatically deep with meaning and pleasure. Danger and even evil, however, shadow Hemon's recollection of the Sarajevo of his youth. He looks back on his Bosnia much like Candide does his El Dorado. They were utopias where one could not stay, whether because of choice in the case of El Dorado or compulsion due to civil war in the case of Sarajevo. The lost paradise reaches beyond the externality of war. Hemon's penetrating look at Sarajevo suggests it was a paradise with its own internal rot. The bullies, gangs, thugs and perverts in the streets are as reptilian as anything that much larger urban dystopias could throw up. The decay gets inside Hemon himself, as he expresses -- with his tongue probably in cheek -- his admiration for Bosnian thugs. The Bosnian for "catastrophe", katastrofa is a core experience of life, Hemon teaches, and he seems to believe it. The Yugoslavia of recollection is culturally rich in music, food and life in general. I found myself underlining Hemon's pronouncements about literature: "Storytelling is not only not reporting, but the opposite of it: It is reimagining what happened in a different domain of experiential reality, including the past." It is the very definition of imagination to shape, reshape, mold and do whatever it wants with reality as a kind of thought experiment to yield meaning or as a form of play to produce bliss and enjoyment. Hemon attributes his bountiful understanding of story not to a university education but his parents. His father was an engineer, and his travels -- to Africa, Russia, western Europe and elsewhere -- generated a sense of wonder in his son and his family. Hemon recalls his wonderment and that of his family as his father tells stories about people and experiences abroad. And Hemon credits his mother, too, for his understanding of story, though she rarely ventured outside Sarajevo. She recited poetry, told jokes, bought books and developed a love of the richness of language. Indeed, Hemon's memoir is almost a lesson in Bosnian because he reprints hundreds of words, almost always with English definitions. Multiple times, Hemon underlines what he contends are the limitations of English usually in jest. It isn't all heaven. Hemon writes about the constant threat of beatings on the street in the section of the memoir about his friends, adventures in Sarajevo with them and girlfriends. He writes about a boy named Zlojutro, a name that translates as "Evilmorning". Hemon says the boy is the closest experience he has had to someone who gets sadistic pleasure from the pain of others. Zlojutro targeted Hemon for physical attack, and it finally happened in the halls of their school, but he wasn't the only tormentor. There were others. Hemon learns from his father to fight back. The boy might get a beating, but he'll earn respect and the cessation of hostility. It happens as his father predicts, but Hemon comes close to bullying himself. Indeed, the author notes at one point that he beat a boy for what appears to be for no reason. At a reading, I met Hemon, detecting a look of angst in his eyes. For an instant it appeared to be directed at me, a six feet, two inch-tall man in good shape about the same age as Hemon. The fear soon vanished, and Hemon played the role of the affable author, signing two of his books I had read. Yet it is clear where the darkness that pops up in Aleksandar Hemon's stories originated: the streets of Sarajevo. He cannot go back to the city, and he might not want to return, his memories, recollections and cultural depth notwithstanding. The darkness, as well as the feast of culture, started there.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cflack

    I love reading Aleksandar Hemon because his writing is so human, both in the specifics of individuals as well as in the way he depicts universal human conditions. His recently published double memoir does not disappoint. This exceptional memoir is broken into two parts - one part covers his parents lives growing up in Bosnia and what it meant for them to be uprooted in their 50s and become refugees in Canada. The way Hemon structures these stories with deep underlying humor and warmth we see not I love reading Aleksandar Hemon because his writing is so human, both in the specifics of individuals as well as in the way he depicts universal human conditions. His recently published double memoir does not disappoint. This exceptional memoir is broken into two parts - one part covers his parents lives growing up in Bosnia and what it meant for them to be uprooted in their 50s and become refugees in Canada. The way Hemon structures these stories with deep underlying humor and warmth we see not only the specifics of their lives and what they had to give up but how once they established themselves in Hamilton, Ontario the things that once made them feel part of a greater whole in Bosnia are the things which make them the "other" in Canada. Hemon succeeds on multiple levels here. On one level is the transformation in the lives of his parents being part of a generation who through the rise of socialism under Tito were given free college educations allowing them and others like them to rise quickly into the middle class. Hemon looks past his own childish view of the boredom and predictability at the time to see what his parents saw in these opportunities. On another level Hemon shares his detailed observations of his parents as they learn to adapt to their life in Canada. Food plays a huge part in all of these memories and his description of his father at the all-you-can eat Chinese buffet is worth the price of admission alone. The other part of the memoir are snippets of memories from Hemon's childhood, ranging from a paragraph or two to a couple of pages in length. These fragments were not only visual but extremely sensory - the smell of a girlfriend's hair, the taste of vomiting swallowed blood and the feel of dancing close and placing your palms on someone's back, the impact of hearing David Bowie's "Heroes" for the first time. An individual may be the sum of their memories but all of these memories do not necessarily create a cohesive whole. There was also the meta idea of memories - sometimes long forgotten which come back fully when thinking about something else - if no one remembers it did it really happen and once you write it down these memories become codified and does that make them more real? Running through these memory fragments was Hemon's fascination with Jerry Lewis, lest you think this is all very highbrow. Beautifully structured and written, these memories and thoughts are well worth indulging in.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Klein

    It was a relief to finally finish this book. I am a big fan of Hemon's writing, his sentence structure and the power of his narrative but this book dragged. It bordered on being self indulgent at times, particularly the section about his parents but also his recollections of his boyhood. Nothing new here really. His parents seemed perfectly ordinary. But why do I need to read about them? What does Hemon give us as readers to make us want to know them. Not much. At some point towards the end of " It was a relief to finally finish this book. I am a big fan of Hemon's writing, his sentence structure and the power of his narrative but this book dragged. It bordered on being self indulgent at times, particularly the section about his parents but also his recollections of his boyhood. Nothing new here really. His parents seemed perfectly ordinary. But why do I need to read about them? What does Hemon give us as readers to make us want to know them. Not much. At some point towards the end of "This Does Not Belong to you" I realized I was reading disjointed snippets of boyhood memories and realized that my efforts to finish the book felt pointless. I'd read these kinds of reveries before in other books with more of a compelling story line. I did learn one fact....that crystallized honey can be warmed up and consumed. That organic honey crystallizes naturally and isn't a sign that its gone bad. So there was that.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Bryant

    I LOVED the first book in this two-fer, "My Parents." Hemon has such a skill in all his work for relating what seem to be day-to-day, mundane routines to the horror of war, and that skill is applied to a heartfelt portrayal of his parents. It also gives a decent amount of history to the Bosnian war, which lets me further appreciate his other work. The second part, "This Does Not Belong to You," is not quite my cup of tea. I have a hard time seeing the connection or themes behind its short memori I LOVED the first book in this two-fer, "My Parents." Hemon has such a skill in all his work for relating what seem to be day-to-day, mundane routines to the horror of war, and that skill is applied to a heartfelt portrayal of his parents. It also gives a decent amount of history to the Bosnian war, which lets me further appreciate his other work. The second part, "This Does Not Belong to You," is not quite my cup of tea. I have a hard time seeing the connection or themes behind its short memories (no section of this book is longer than three pages). I think Hemon works best in longform, free to let his mind wander where it will. Perhaps I'll revisit this in the future and "get it," but for now it left me a bit dry.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elinor

    Five stars for My Parents and three stars for This Does Not Belong to You. The first is the story of a marriage through change and a coherent narrative. The second is a collection of short memories from childhood that somehow to not cohere. Its main themes: attraction to girls and what to do / not do and incidences of bullying and cruelty amid children and to animals.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Scott Pierce

    Enjoyed the "My Parents" portion of the book the most - "So that, as much as I love my father, he is a character in his own stories, which I sometimes get to retell. Whereas my mother is in my head, not as a nuisance that would require psychoanalysis, but as an ethical code, a linguistic systems, and a perpetual source of warmth."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Igor Elias Carrasco

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. Mr. Hemon has a magic with words and thoughts that brought tears to my eyes on many occasions, be they of melancholy or joy. Highly recommend.

  9. 4 out of 5

    J.A.

    Starred review from Kirkus.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James Allan

    4* 'My Parents' gets 5*, 'This does not belong to you' gets 3*

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sharon McNeil

    Interesting memoir written in two parts.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Buzz Taylor

  13. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen Lida

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vesna

  17. 5 out of 5

    Noah

  18. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Craig Lundeen

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ms Lisa V Graves

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  21. 4 out of 5

    Caitlyn

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ash

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sofya

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrej Bogdanov

  25. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Turley

  26. 4 out of 5

    Meg Ferrante

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rives

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Hendrickson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Slavko Orsolic

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nick Ironside

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