The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return by Kenan Trebincevic, Susan Shapiro |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return

The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return

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by Kenan Trebincevic, Susan Shapiro
     
 

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A young survivor of the Bosnian War returns to his homeland to confront the people who betrayed his family

At age eleven, Kenan Trebincevic was a happy, karate-loving kid living with his family in the quiet Eastern European town of Brcko. Then, in the spring of 1992, war broke out and his friends, neighbors and teammates all turned on him. Pero - Kenan's

Overview

A young survivor of the Bosnian War returns to his homeland to confront the people who betrayed his family

At age eleven, Kenan Trebincevic was a happy, karate-loving kid living with his family in the quiet Eastern European town of Brcko. Then, in the spring of 1992, war broke out and his friends, neighbors and teammates all turned on him. Pero - Kenan's beloved karate coach - showed up at his door with an AK-47 - screaming: "You have one hour to leave or be killed!" Kenan’s only crime: he was Muslim. This poignant, searing memoir chronicles Kenan’s miraculous escape from the brutal ethnic cleansing campaign that swept the former Yugoslavia. After two decades in the United States, Kenan honors his father’s wish to visit their homeland, making a list of what he wants to do there. Kenan decides to confront the former next door neighbor who stole from his mother, see the concentration camp where his Dad and brother were imprisoned and stand on the grave of his first betrayer to make sure he’s really dead. Back in the land of his birth, Kenan finds something more powerful—and shocking—than revenge.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/16/2013
Nearly 20 years after fleeing their war-ravaged country with his parents and older brother (“the last Muslim family in town”), Trebincevic returned to his hometown of Brcko, Bosnia with vengeance in his heart, yet he found there a different kind of reckoning. In this astute account, co-authored with Shapiro (Five Men Who Broke My Heart), is readably organized and evenhanded. Trebincevic alternates narrating his admittedly reluctant journey back to Bosnia with his father, now in his 70s, and brother, Eldin, in July 2011, with his reconstruction of the outbreak of war in March 1992—when the author was 11, Bosnia-Herzegovina had declared its independence from Yugoslavia, and the well-armed Serbs launched a bloody campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the majority Muslims in the country. Trebincevic and his family were blindsided by the violence, since the diverse ethnic groups had lived in harmony for decades, yet seemingly overnight had to contend with neighbors and teachers hurling ethnic slurs. The family eventually escaped to Connecticut, yet the bonds of loyalty and treachery were so complex and scarring that even after having made his career as a successful physical therapist in Queens, N.Y., Trebincevic, now 30, wrote out a list of scores to settle when he agreed to accompany his father and brother back to their hometown. The great instruction of this important work is the author’s moral transformation that helped him replace hate with grace, if not forgiveness. (Mar)
From the Publisher
Praise for THE BOSNIA LIST

“The great instruction of this important work is the author’s moral transformation that helped him replace hate with grace, if not forgiveness.”
Publishers Weekly

“A mesmerizing tale of survival and healing.”
—Booklist

“An engaging memoir of war trauma and the redemption to be found in confronting it.”
Kirkus

“A young New Yorker haunted by searing memories goes on a most unusual overseas vacation—not to sightsee or party but to confront the ordinary men and women who tore his family’s lives apart. His journey takes us into a time of mesmerizing violence and betrayal when neighbors set upon each other as though it were the 1940s all over again—a world of twisted emotions and baffling brutality lying just below the surface of his contemporary Europe. THE BOSNIA LIST is powerful, the flashbacks riveting.”  
—Tom Reiss, bestselling author of The Black Count and The Orientalist

“With understated elegance and in highly personal pointillist dots, Kenan Trebincevic illuminates how the Bosnian tragedy blighted, and continues to blight, the lives of countless people both in his homeland and in its far-flung diaspora. This important and original work reminds us, in ways large and small, of the long half-life of an atrocity.”
—David Margolick, bestselling author of Elizabeth and Hazel and Strange Fruit

“Kenan Trebincevic fights against the power of memory and his own rage in this remembrance of a time that seems like a medieval anachronism yet was barely a decade ago. This is a searing memoir of war and peace from a young man who sees through ancient rhetoric with stunning clarity, both in his home country and his adopted United States. Read this book for its impassioned honesty.”
—Tom Zoellner, bestselling author of A Safeway in Arizona

“I’m so blown away by this beautiful book.  For the first time, a young Bosnian tells a riveting coming-of-age story about the brutal Balkan war when parents disappeared into concentration camps, teachers turned on students and children betrayed children.
Two decades later, now an American citizen, Kenan returns to his homeland to confront the guilty and honor the dead in this passionate, nuanced account of a man who refuses to forget.”
—Julia Lieblich, author of Sisters: Lives of Devotion and Defiance

“Kenan Trebincevic’s story of survival and remembrance is moving, well-told, and important for all of us to hear. He makes a powerful case for courage and human decency as the only way through the divisive madness of modern life.”
—Ian Frazier, bestselling author of Travels in Siberia and Great Plains

“THE BOSNIA LIST tells a fascinating story of a harrowing and heart-rending journey. It’s a graceful, taut memoir of family, friends and faith: a moving recollection of souls being torn asunder and slowly beginning to heal.”
—Laurence Bergreen, bestselling author of Columbus: The Four Journeys

“THE BOSNIA LIST was difficult to finish because it touched me so deeply. I’ve wondered how another Bosniak could describe their tragedy and traumas, watching the transformation of former friends and neighbors becoming animals. Most powerful was how Kenan’s mother’s voice echoed in his head and became his morality, preventing him from getting revenge. She’s one of the strongest, best described female characters in Bosnian literature. And I was rooting for Kenan’s father not to succumb to evil and stay a good man. That might be why his family survived. That shows us all: if we stay good, we have a chance.”
—Dr. Esad Boskailo, Bosnian war survivor and co-author of Wounded I Am More Awake

Library Journal
04/01/2014
Yugoslavia's descent into war and genocide more than two decades ago has been the subject of outstanding scholarship, journalism, and biography. Trebincević's account contributes to this literature in an unusual way. The author blends his childhood experience of Bosnia's tragedy with a return to his original home in Brcko after nearly 20 years in the United States. The titular list is of goals the author intends to accomplish. They include seeking out surviving friends and relatives as well as confronting Serbs guilty of crimes against Trebincević's defenseless Muslim family. The great irony of the narrative consists in the list's gradual transformation into an enumeration of Serbs who rendered critical help, enabling the family's survival and flight. Far from being a tale of exoneration, the author's story is one that reveals the power and limitations of memory, the poignant complexity of human relations in battle, and the catharsis of understanding past betrayal and sacrifice. VERDICT Combining themes of war, childhood, and return, this memoir is for readers interested in the human drama of brutal conflicts and social dislocation. Knowledge of Balkan history is not necessary.—Zachary Irwin, Behrend Coll., Penn State Erie
Kirkus Reviews
2013-12-14
With the assistance of Shapiro (Journalism/The New School; Unhooked: How to Quit Anything, 2012, etc.), Trebincevic returns to the scene of childhood trauma during the Bosnian War of the early 1990s. The author fled the bloody civil war in his native Bosnia in 1993 with his father, mother and older brother, Eldin, and settled in Connecticut. Just 11 years old when the war broke out, the author observed the sudden hostility of the Serbs toward him and his family, native Muslims, as ethnic tensions flared in their diverse town of Brcko and the Muslims were persecuted in the name of Serbian supremacy. His revered karate coach turned a cold shoulder to him, the family's bank account was depleted, his favorite teacher spat at him on the street ("Everything he'd ever taught me about brotherhood and unity was a lie"), the shopkeepers taunted them, and, most haunting for the boy who could not protect his mother, their neighbor, Petra, gradually appropriated their furnishings and clothes since, as she assured his mother, "You won't be needing that carpet." When the author's father, now in his 70s, a widower since his wife died of cancer, resolved to return to Bosnia in 2011 for a visit, the author and his brother had to swallow their pride and go with him, with enormous trepidation. At 30, the author was "startled by the intensity of [his] fury" when imagining how he would return to his tormentors. Indeed, he drew up a list of grievances to attend to during his visit, including confronting Serb classmates and friends who had turned the family in, especially Petra; peeing on the karate instructor's grave; and visiting the concentration camp where his father and brother were imprisoned. Yet immersion in his homeland and being bombarded by the new reality challenged his vendetta in surprising ways. An engaging memoir of war trauma and the redemption to be found in confronting it.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143124573
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/25/2014
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
140,046
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for THE BOSNIA LIST

“The great instruction of this important work is the author’s moral transformation that helped him replace hate with grace, if not forgiveness.”
Publishers Weekly

“A mesmerizing tale of survival and healing.”
—Booklist

“An engaging memoir of war trauma and the redemption to be found in confronting it.”
—Kirkus

“A young New Yorker haunted by searing memories goes on a most unusual overseas vacation—not to sightsee or party but to confront the ordinary men and women who tore his family’s lives apart. His journey takes us into a time of mesmerizing violence and betrayal when neighbors set upon each other as though it were the 1940s all over again—a world of twisted emotions and baffling brutality lying just below the surface of his contemporary Europe. THE BOSNIA LIST is powerful, the flashbacks riveting.”  
—Tom Reiss, bestselling author of The Black Count and The Orientalist

“With understated elegance and in highly personal pointillist dots, Kenan Trebincevic illuminates how the Bosnian tragedy blighted, and continues to blight, the lives of countless people both in his homeland and in its far-flung diaspora. This important and original work reminds us, in ways large and small, of the long half-life of an atrocity.”
—David Margolick, bestselling author of Elizabeth and Hazel and Strange Fruit

“Kenan Trebincevic fights against the power of memory and his own rage in this remembrance of a time that seems like a medieval anachronism yet was barely a decade ago. This is a searing memoir of war and peace from a young man who sees through ancient rhetoric with stunning clarity, both in his home country and his adopted United States. Read this book for its impassioned honesty.”
—Tom Zoellner, bestselling author of A Safeway in Arizona

“I’m so blown away by this beautiful book.  For the first time, a young Bosnian tells a riveting coming-of-age story about the brutal Balkan war when parents disappeared into concentration camps, teachers turned on students and children betrayed children.
Two decades later, now an American citizen, Kenan returns to his homeland to confront the guilty and honor the dead in this passionate, nuanced account of a man who refuses to forget.”
—Julia Lieblich, author of Sisters: Lives of Devotion and Defiance

“Kenan Trebincevic’s story of survival and remembrance is moving, well-told, and important for all of us to hear. He makes a powerful case for courage and human decency as the only way through the divisive madness of modern life.”
—Ian Frazier, bestselling author of Travels in Siberia and Great Plains

“THE BOSNIA LIST tells a fascinating story of a harrowing and heart-rending journey. It’s a graceful, taut memoir of family, friends and faith: a moving recollection of souls being torn asunder and slowly beginning to heal.”
—Laurence Bergreen, bestselling author of Columbus: The Four Journeys

“THE BOSNIA LIST was difficult to finish because it touched me so deeply. I’ve wondered how another Bosniak could describe their tragedy and traumas, watching the transformation of former friends and neighbors becoming animals. Most powerful was how Kenan’s mother’s voice echoed in his head and became his morality, preventing him from getting revenge. She’s one of the strongest, best described female characters in Bosnian literature. And I was rooting for Kenan’s father not to succumb to evil and stay a good man. That might be why his family survived. That shows us all: if we stay good, we have a chance.”
—Dr. Esad Boskailo, Bosnian war survivor and co-author of Wounded I Am More Awake

Meet the Author

Kenan Trebincevic immigrated to America in 1993 and became a citizen in 2001. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and Op-Ed page, the Wall Street Journal, Salon, and The Best American Travel Writing 2012 and on American Public Radio and NPR. 

Susan Shapiro teaches journalism at New York University and the New School. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the Nation.  She is the author of eight books, including the memoir Five Men Who Broke My Heart, which is currently optioned for film.

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