Forbidden Bread: A Memoir

Forbidden Bread: A Memoir

by Erica Johnson Debeljak




Forbidden Bread is an unusual love story that covers great territory, both geographically and emotionally. The author leaves behind a successful career as an American financial analyst to pursue Ales Debeljak, a womanizing Slovenian poet who catches her attention at a cocktail party. The story begins in New York City, but quickly migrates, along with the author, to Slovenia. As she struggles to forge an identity in her new home, Slovenia itself undergoes the transformation from a communist to a capitalist society. A complicated language, politically incorrect ethnic jokes, and old-fashioned sexism are just a few of the challenges Debeljak faces on her journey. Happily, she marries her poet and comes to love her new husband's family as well as the fast-disappearing rural traditions of this beautiful country. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Slovenian Ten Day War and the much longer Yugoslav wars of succession, Forbidden Bread shows a worldly and courageous woman coming to grips with her new life and family situation in a rapidly changing European landscape.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556437403
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Publication date: 04/07/2009
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 712,287
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Erica Debeljak lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia with her husband Ales and her three children. Born in San Francisco in 1961, she moved to New York City where she attended college and graduate school before pursuing a career in international finance. In 1991, she fell in love with Ales Debeljak, quit her job to make a new life in a new country.

Unable to pursue her career in Slovenia where bureaucratic hurdles blocked the way, she learned the language, became a Slovenian/English translator, and eventually took up work as a writer and columnist. Her essays and stories have recently appeared in Glimmer Train (winner of 2007 Family Matters Contest), Prairie Schooner, The Missouri Review, Nimrod, Epoch, Common Knowledge, Context, and Eurozine. Her work has been translated into over five languages.

She received an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Orleans and has published three books in Slovenia, including Foreigner in the House of Natives.

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Forbidden Bread: A Memoir 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
clamairy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a treat this book turned out to be. The only reason I'm not giving it a full 5 stars is because it was slow to grab me. I even put it down once and picked up something else. I was afraid this was going to be a memoir all about emotional turmoil, when, in fact it's more of a love song to Slovenia. There's a lot of wry humor mixed with tenderness as the writer learns not only to live comfortably in her alien surroundings, but also learns to love her new homeland as well. Honestly, this is one region of the world I would never have even considered visiting before reading this book. Now I would love to see it!
BaileysAndBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1993, financial analyst Erica Johnson Debeljak makes a life altering move from her friend and her job in NYC to travel across a geographical and cultural divide to the new(ish) country of Slovenia, all in the name of love to her Slovenian poet that she met at a party in 1991.Given this set-up, this book seems to hold promise of depicting struggle, culture shock, limitless love - any number of emotions that such an event can bring on in memoirs that someone feels important enough to share. And certainly there are some pockets in the a few chapters where I see more than just the superficial thoughts of an American in Slovenia. And I don't mean superficial in the American sense that she longs for toilets without inspection shelves, gourmet coffee, etc - but really that I do not feel I am taken in to her deeper thoughts that such expected turmoil should provide. I feel that she glosses over areas of her life that I would love her to delve deeper in to. Tell me more about those first months in a cramped apartment while attending school to learn this very foreign language since you can not work there, tell me more about the students you encounter, tell me more about your shopping experiences as you begin to interact more with the local farmers and vendors.A good first attempt at writing, but I really feel she could have offered so much more.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Erica Johnson Debeljak¿s Forbidden Bread is the memoir of a New York financial analyst who leaves home to marry a poet from Slovenia and settle in his newly independent country. Although sometimes a little dry, generally speaking, the book is revealing about life in the tiny Eastern European nation. I particularly liked the description of the day Erica and her fiancé, Ales, decide upon the spot for their upcoming wedding. Hoping to impress Erica¿s family, who are less than thrilled with her choice to move to the former Yugoslavia, they find a beautiful, fairytale castle for the wedding ceremony. The reception is to be held in a nearby restaurant. As the couple check out the restaurant by sampling a delicious meal, their romantic dinner is suddenly interrupted by shaking ground and loud blasts. When asked, the waiter apologizes profusely ¿ it is the unfortunate and unpredictable war being fought over the border in Croatia, less than an hour away. Erica¿s first question: Do they fight on Saturdays, too?The descriptions of Slovenian bureaucracy, language, beliefs and old world customs make for interesting reading. The historical references interspersed throughout the memoir are fairly confusing, but I imagine that is because of the complexity of the history of the area. In the beginning of the book is a pronunciation guide that is helpful, and throughout the book are photographs that add to the enjoyment of the memoir. Given the fact that she spends pages describing the fact that her New York friends and colleagues had no idea WHERE Slovenia is, let alone anything about its culture, I am very surprised that Debeljak does not include a map or two in the book. That would have been helpful in understanding both her travels and the history of the region.
winecat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful read, I felt as if I was there with Erica making her transition from her old life to her new, struggling with language, customs and all the tiny but important things that come with moving to a new country. I will recommend this book to all my book loving friends.
meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quite good memoir. The author, a financial analyst in New York City, threw caution to the wind when she married a Slovenian poet and moved to his brand-spanking-new country in 1993. She didn't know anyone else there and didn't speak Slovenian, and the war in Bosnia was going on close enough that they could hear it. Nevertheless, the transition was a success.Debeljak fell in love with her adopted county and writes about it beautifully and with good-natured humor -- both its good parts and its bad. There was, for example, the horrible bureaucracy left over from the Communist days, as well as the hostility Slovenians held towards "southerners" (other Yugoslavs). But there was the gorgeous landscape, and the hardworking and thrifty inhabitants, and of course her husband and his family who accepted this foreigner as their own.This is an awesome book if you want to know about daily life in Slovenia. I think it would also appeal to all immigrants, from and to anywhere. The culture shock is universal.
ellarogue More than 1 year ago
In 1991, Erica Johnson was an investment analyst living in New York city when she met a dark-haired Slovenian poet, Ales Debeljak. On their first date, Ales made it clear that he intended to return to Slovenia in three-months time, and that he would not let any "forbidden bread" (i.e. forbidden fruit or in this case, Erica) derail his plans. The looming expiration date aside, the two began a relationship, with neither one knowing exactly where it was headed. A break-up and make-up later, Ales, true to his word, returns to Slovenia; Erica promises to call and visit, and take things one step at a time. Despite the initial pitfalls of very-long distance relationship, Ales proposed in 1993 and Erica made the radical decision to leave her job, her family, and her friends and move to Slovenia. In the early 90's, Slovenia was a country that very few Americans ever heard of. Gaining its independence from the former Yugoslavia in a ten-day war, Slovenia was struggling to modernize and enter the twentieth century with meager resources. Not surprisingly, Erica's decision was greeted with puzzled looks, questions like "Where is that?" and warnings from her Eastern European friends about her future husband not lifting a finger. Married to Ales in October of 1993, Erica embarked on a journey of discovering a radically different culture. With farms in the middle of the city and entertainment consisting of three bars, Ljubjana (the capital of Slovenia) was light years apart from New York City. Erica was often looked at as the silly American who did not understand customs (or more often old wives' tales) like wearing slippers inside a home to prevent ailments, or triple-diapering a baby to avoid strange leg deformities. She often felt lonely and detached from the people around her, but took her new surroundings in stride. Erica learned Slovenian, dealt with the remnants of Soviet bureaucracy and most importantly, came to appreciate and enjoy the country that was now her home. As described by Publisher's Weekly, "Forbidden Bread" is at once "a love letter to Erica's husband and an introduction to the Slovenian world". Part a reverse mail-order bride story, part a history/geography lesson, and part a family account, "Forbidden Bread" is above all a tribute to the lengths people go to for love.