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Things Nobody Knows But Me

2020 - Shortlisted


Judges' Comments

A wise and engrossing book about growing up between Australia and Bosnia, centred around the author’s relationship with her damaged mother. This is a beautiful telling of a complex intergenerational story of life in two worlds. Her grandmother’s village in rural Bosnia, the landscape, people and traditional culture, is exquisitely contrasted with growing up in suburban Melbourne, and a family life punctuated by Fatima’s mental illness. Despite the hardship of her childhood experience, the book is tinged with humour and filled with love. 

Told as a series of vignettes, the text is deceptively simple but the deep emotional backstory shines through, as the family negotiates a tangle of myths, fears, cultural misunderstandings and the very different experiences of being Muslim in Australia and Bosnia. Much is conveyed in few words and the child’s perception is strongly recalled as the adult writer reflects on bewildering secrets in her family history. Pajalić skilfully interweaves memories, documentary sources and fictional recreation of her lived experience to create a tender memoir and an optimistic story of resilience. 


About the author

Amra Pajalić

Amra Pajalic is an an editor, teacher and award winning author. Her debut novel The Good Daughter (Text Publishing, 2009) won the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature's Civic Choice Award. She is co-editor of the anthology Growing up Muslim in Australia (Allen and Unwin, 2019) shortlisted for the 2015 Children's Book Council of the Year awards. Her latest book is a family memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me (Transit Lounge, 2019). She is completing a PhD in Creative Writing at La Trobe University.