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My Parents: An Introduction / This Does Not Belong to You

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  152 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Two books in one in a flip dos--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
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 11th 2019 by MCD
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
'True history is always played out on a personal level.'

Craig Barner
Aleksandar Hemon cements his reputation as one the finest writers worldwide with his compelling two-part memoir: My Parents: An Introduction in tandem with This Does Not Belong to You. He depicts his Ukrainian-descended upbringing in the former Yugoslavian province of Bosnia as a socialist paradise. Life as lived and expressed in music, food, storytelling and dozens of other ways was automatically deep with meaning and pleasure.

Danger and even evil, however, shadow Hemon's recollection of the
Tyler David
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I recently read a 2002 article by sociologist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak that describes a humanities education as “an uncoercive rearrangement of desires.” Aleksandar Hemon's latest work fulfilled exactly this purpose for me, transforming my desire to be entertained into self-reflection: what can I, a product of consumer capitalism, learn from those who were raised in another system? How do I balance nostalgia, and the striving for a better future, with a grounding in the present?

Woodstock Pickett
Uniquely designed and bound - the two segments of this book are "upside down" to each other. To read the next, you have to turn the book over and begin at the back, which, after you have made the turn, is now the front.

This unusual presentation serves to bind the sections to each other, but also to emphasize the separate character of each section. Hemon's biography of his parents is lovingly told, each chapter focusing on one part of their shared lives - their individual biographies, their
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This biography/autobiography is divided into two halves. The first is the story of Hemon’s parents and their forced flight from Sarajevo to Canada in the 1990s due to the Bosnian War. It’s an affectionate, insightful and loving account of them, and their bravery and resourcefulness in adapting to a new life in a new country is vividly depicted. The second half of the book is a rather rambling memoir of Hemon’s own childhood and youth in Sarajevo, and an exploration of the nature of memory and ...more
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was expecting so much more from this book but it’s dry and downright boring. Why the author thinks anyone would be interested in his parents ordinary life is beyond me.
Igor Elias Carrasco

Just beautiful. Mr. Hemon has a magic with words and thoughts that brought tears to my eyes on many occasions, be they of melancholy or joy. Highly recommend.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I laughed I cried I loved this book.
The author's dazzling writing about memory blew me away.
The title is interesting, specifically because what I’ve learned about memory is we all remember differently. How my sister remembers our childhood is different than how I remember it. Therefore the title: “This Does Not Belong to You" Brilliant!
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Five stars for My Parents and three stars for This Does Not Belong to You. The first is the story of a marriage through change and a coherent narrative. The second is a collection of short memories from childhood that somehow to not cohere. Its main themes: attraction to girls and what to do / not do and incidences of bullying and cruelty amid children and to animals.
Barbara Klein
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
It was a relief to finally finish this book. I am a big fan of Hemon's writing, his sentence structure and the power of his narrative but this book dragged. It bordered on being self indulgent at times, particularly the section about his parents but also his recollections of his boyhood. Nothing new here really. His parents seemed perfectly ordinary. But why do I need to read about them? What does Hemon give us as readers to make us want to know them. Not much. At some point towards the end of ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Only read My Parents as the latter portion of my audiobook was so punctuated by comical surf-rock interludes that I couldn't focus.
Sober, sensitive, a few great insights, but a little dry.
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love reading Aleksandar Hemon because his writing is so human, both in the specifics of individuals as well as in the way he depicts universal human conditions. His recently published double memoir does not disappoint.

This exceptional memoir is broken into two parts - one part covers his parents lives growing up in Bosnia and what it meant for them to be uprooted in their 50s and become refugees in Canada. The way Hemon structures these stories with deep underlying humor and warmth we see not
"My cousin Ljilja lived with us while in college; she came to Sarajevo to study Russian language and literature. She'd something spontaneously recite Yesenin's poems in Russian, or quote Gorky: "Man — how proud that sounds!" She sang around the house all the time, her favorite a song called "Ryabinushka" — to this day I don't know what a ryabinushka is. We would record music from the radio on the Grundig magnetofon and then play it back. She sang along with the recording in a clean, airy, high ...more
Dalila Zelkanovic
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the anecdotes that hit so close to home as a first-gen Bosnian-American, Hemon's observations of life, as he knew it, compared to his parents in former Yugoslavia's glory days, as well as the grimness of the aftereffects of forced displacement; of his parents overnight becoming a 'nobody' when removed from the social construct that constituted their identity. But what I enjoyed the most was reading through his analytical lens of 'nostalgia.' Nostalgia can be dangerously grim because it ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Together, these books work on several levels. First, as an ethnography of baby boomers in Yugoslavia from the end of WWII to the breakup. It is also a series of meditations on the differences between generations; the experiences of Generation X; and the losses experienced by the middle class at the end of the 20th century.

I found the similarities between my experiences growing up in the US at the same time as Hemon was growing up in Sarajevo striking. The experiences of his parents, in many ways
Adrian Bryant
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I LOVED the first book in this two-fer, "My Parents." Hemon has such a skill in all his work for relating what seem to be day-to-day, mundane routines to the horror of war, and that skill is applied to a heartfelt portrayal of his parents. It also gives a decent amount of history to the Bosnian war, which lets me further appreciate his other work.

The second part, "This Does Not Belong to You," is not quite my cup of tea. I have a hard time seeing the connection or themes behind its short
B. Mason
Hemon's memoir of his parents is excellent both for it's organization, brevity, humor, and tender tone. I appreciated the thematic approach as it allowed him to focus on aspects of his parents rather than trying to capture some totality. This Does Not Belong to You was a curious foray into a fragmented collection of memory writing that, at times, was lucid and brilliant, and others bloated and overly cynical. If you finish and know exactly who the "you" is he's referring to in the title is lmk.
Reader Variety
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Enjoyed the "My Parents" portion of the book the most - "So that, as much as I love my father, he is a character in his own stories, which I sometimes get to retell. Whereas my mother is in my head, not as a nuisance that would require psychoanalysis, but as an ethical code, a linguistic systems, and a perpetual source of warmth."
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The part about Hemon's parents is informative, revealing and a compelling read. The 2nd part about his childhood is disappointing. Back to the parents: his understanding of what made their adjustment to living in Canada gives the reader a clear picture of their struggles. And they can't leave their heavy baggage behind. And the reader will learn about life after WW II in Eastern Europe.
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
My Parents: an Introduction is a great read, with beautiful descriptions of what is lost in forced immigration ... the second half This Does Not Belong to Me is not my kind of reading... fragments of stream of consciousness.
Oct 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Some reviewer on the cover flap suggested that this author is the best living writer, but I highly doubt that. I liked the format of this book, but "My Parents" was too long and over-analyzed. Mostly I read it because I've never read anything by a Bosnian(-Canadian) author before.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My parents is a great book. It has made me understand a lot, even understand my parents (thought not Ygoslavian but from another conflict zone). It made me laugh and wonder. Great writing style.
Though I did not enjoy "This does not belong to you", "My parents" is one of my favourites.
Paul Byrne
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hemon’s love and admiration for his parents shines through in this superb account of their dispossession from their lives in war torn Sarajevo. He really makes us understand their connection and love for the land with wit and affection. A wonderful read.
Roni Beavin
Nov 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
TERRIBLE book! I read a good review but was stunned by how bad it was. I didn't finish it, which is rare for me.
Sharon McNeil
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interesting memoir written in two parts.
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I could relate to many of the experiences detailed within these pages, having had many similar ones myself.
Jun 19, 2019 marked it as to-read
Starred review from Kirkus.
Jonathan yates
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read, a very calm story of the life of a family in two realities that becomes a wonderful musing at what makes us human and happy
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
James Allan
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
4* 'My Parents' gets 5*, 'This does not belong to you' gets 3*
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Hemon graduated from the University of Sarajevo with a degree in literature in 1990. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1992 and found that he was unable to write in Bosnian and spoke little English.

In 1995, he started writing works in English and managed to showcase his work in prestigious magazines such as the New Yorker and Esquire. He is the author of The Lazarus Project, which was a finalist