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The Bosnia List


What do you do when your entire world as you know it, turns against you? When your friends and neighbors wish you dead? When you watch helplessly as your possessions are taken away with impunity, and the town where your family was held in high regard, is not yours anymore?

All because you are a Muslim, and the state decides to cleanse itself of your community.

Can you ever forgive people for what they do to you?

Kenan Trebincevic’s book ‘The Bosnia List’ is a poignant account of Kenan’s experiences as a young boy in the war torn erstwhile Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the family’s delayed flight from the land and their final home in the US.

Through the eyes of an 11 year old, and then as an adult, Kenan tries to process what went wrong. How do friends become enemies, and how can a country not even acknowledge the mass ethic cleansing of a section of its people? How does the world believe one version of history and negate the other?

Kenan re-visited Bosnia after almost two decades with his father and brother. In his pocket he had the Bosnia list – names of places to go back to, that had personal significance for him and people he wished to confront and ask ‘Why’? Kenan ticks off most of the items on his list. And through it all he simmers with conflicting emotions – anger at the people who forced his family into exile, a sadistic pleasure that the perpetrators of the crime have earned themselves a bad economy, confusion that there were many Serbs who helped his family survive and escape even while they killed other Muslims, guilt that he was lucky enough to escape to the US even as many Bosniaks still suffer greatly, and a deep sorrow at what was taken away from his family.

It left me thinking. As a human being how much can you forgive and who do you forgive for taking your life away? Is forgiveness an overrated virtue?

The Bosnia List is nicely paced, and moves between the present and the past with simple ease. A memoir that resonates in this world charged with unnecessary conflict based on religion, regional or political compulsions and false entitlement.

Rating 4/5

The Bosnia List

A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return

By Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro

320 pp. Penguin Books.


About Preeti Singh

I am a bookaholic. I love stories, storytelling. I enjoy helping people structure their storytelling, and I love to share the stories I discover.

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This entry was posted on September 1, 2014 by in Book Reviews, Memoir, Non Fiction and tagged , .


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