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. 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 grounded in stories lovingly polished by retelling, but made thrilling 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 about his family, friends and childhood in Sarajevo, presented as explosive, hilarious, poignant miniatures.
Together these two books complement each other and form a major work from a major writer. Hemon has never been better than here and the moment has never been more ready for his voice, nor has the world ever been more in need of it.