Two books in one in a flip dos-à-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-à-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.
“Two very different memoirs within the same cover address memory, identity, history, and mortality from different perspectives . . . [My Parents is] a memoir of mortality, of memory, of what endures. This Does Not Belong to You is more of a series of coming-of-age fragments, some rapturously poetic . . . An incisive combination of literature that addresses the function of literature and memories that explore the meaning of memory” —Kirkus Reviews
"My Parents follows his father and mother as they rose from impoverished rural backgrounds to enjoy the communist 'Yugoslav Dream' . . . This Does Not Belong to You is an impressionistic, darker-edged sheaf of Hemon’s boyhood memories . . . Sometimes lively and sensual, sometimes bleakly ruminative, Hemon’s recollections unite his dazzling prose style with a captivating personal narrative.” —Publishers Weekly
“Hemon’s newest, most delving nonfiction work . . . [My Parents] incorporates the complicated histories of Bosnia and Yugoslavia, studded with cultural touchstones, in his ardently precise and analytical portraits of his parents, while in This Does Not Belong to You he deepens the art of the vignette with sensuous and emotional veracity as he shares scorching moments from his Sarajevo childhood . . . Bracing candor, gruff tenderness, righteous anger, and political astuteness, [are] all conveyed with Hemon’s signature intensity, mordant wit, and creative bite." —Donna Seaman, Booklist