This is an exceptionally well-written, thoughtful, grim yet un-put-down-able account of migration to Melbourne in the 1980s as the dream of a unified Yugoslavia shatters. Opening in the near present, Stefanovic walks her reader through the initially perplexing spectacle of a Miss Ex-Yugoslavia competition that draws together historic adversaries through hair straighteners, spray tan and childhood stories of violence and flight. Stefanovic’s fellow contestants are part of the diaspora that has buoyed her family, while standing witness to their experiences of profound loss, the reader soon learns.
Miss Ex-Yugoslavia offers valuable insight into the process of migration through one family’s particular experience and reveals much about Australian culture. Portraying suffering, pain and confusion is an exceptionally difficult task that many memoirists seek to perform. Stefanovic’s smart and subtle humour – set alight by her mother’s take on child psychology, the clash of Australian and Yugoslav cultures, the ironies of migrant nostalgia – her superb capacity for understanding, including of herself, and her clean, vivid prose, allow her to do this ways that are both authoritative and compelling.
About Sofija Stefanovic
Sofija Stefanovic is a Serbian-Australian writer and storyteller based in New York. She hosts the popular literary salon, Women of Letters New York, and This Alien Nation – a monthly celebration of immigration. She’s a regular storyteller with The Moth, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Guardian.com, and Elle.com, among others.