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2020 - Shortlisted
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.