Long-listed for the Saroyan International Nonfiction Prize
and ASJA's Outstanding Autobiography Award
NY Times: My Mother's Shadow
Esquire: Being a Proud Muslim American
An Immigrant's Labor Day story in Quartz
Kenan & Sue in the Miami Herald
Kenan on the BBC
Kenan on Leonard Lopate radio
Kenan on FOX 45 Ohio
Kenan at KTRS in St. Louis
Kenan on FOX TV in St. Louis
Kenan on St. Louis Public Radio
NYTimes: The Reckoning
NYTimes: Marshal Tito in Queens
Salon Magazine: My Home Ripped Apart
Westport Connecticut News
Q&A with Sue in The Forward
Bosnia List essay in Slate
Kenan on WYSO Radio
The Los Angeles Review of Books
PEN World Voices excerpt
Interview in Al Jazeera
Globus Magazine Article
New York Times Book Review
Letter to NYT Book Review
Oprah.com Book of the Week
Bosnian-American TV covers B&N launch
NY Press & Our Town covers book party
Kenan on WGN radio in Chicago
Lake Michigan Shore
Hartford Examiner Q&A
Q & A with Sue in Lilith
Croatian Morning Paper
Bosnian news agency interview with Kenan
Q & A in AM New York
Q & A with Sue & Kenan in Brooklyn Rail
Kenan's radio interview on Bosnian World Cup
Kenan on Salt Lake City NPR
Profile of Sue in Dot429
The New School's magazine
Laura Eggertson, Toronto Star
When the Bosnian civil war approaches the small town of Brćko, the life of 11-year-old Kenan changes overnight. His teacher holds him at gunpoint in the middle of the street, his Karate coach shuns him and his next-door neighbor loots his family's belongings from their home. All the other Muslims have either fled, been sent to concentration camps or been killed. His family ("the last Muslim family in town") eventually are forced to run for their lives. Now, 20 years later, Kenan's an American citizen living in Queens, New York, and honoring his aging father's wish to revisit their homeland—but only because he seeks revenge against the people that wronged his family. With the assistance of writer Susan Shapiro, Kenan tells his harrowing story in two compelling narratives: One that captures his war-torn childhood, the other that traces his surprising journey home. Yes, Kenan searches to confront old enemies, but what he finds instead are "flickers of goodness that must be remembered." That the most significant parts of his life in Bosnia, he rediscovers—and re-remembers—were not filled with hate, but rather filled with "exactly enough" love—the people that helped him and his family survive. A poignant, powerful look at forgiveness.
When Trebinevic was 12, he fled with his family from their small town in the former Yugoslavia, driven out at the threat of death by the ethnic cleansing of Muslims. His childhood buddies, even his beloved karate coach, turned against him. His father and older brother were briefly imprisoned in a concentration camp. The neighbors slowly stole precious items from his mother. From the safety of adulthood in the U.S., Trebinevic is reluctantly drawn back to his homeland when his aging father longs to return for a visit. If he must go back, he wants some revenge and some closure. On his agenda: confront his neighbor, stand on the grave of his former coach, leave flowers at his grandmother’s grave. Trebinevic alternates memories of his childhood and of his life in the U.S. with its edgy attempts to get along with Serbian Americans. In Bosnia, he faces the jarring complexities of people, including himself, coping with atrocities as he finally begins to put away old resentments that have haunted him. A mesmerizing story of survival and healing.
BookList, December 2013
Nearly 20 years after fleeing their war-ravaged country with his parents and older brother (“the last Muslim family in town”), Trebincevic returned to his hometown of Brcko, Bosnia with vengeance in his heart, yet he found there a different kind of reckoning. In this astute account, co-authored with Shapiro (Five Men Who Broke My Heart), is readably organized and evenhanded. Trebincevic alternates narrating his admittedly reluctant journey back to Bosnia with his father, now in his 70s, and brother, Eldin, in July 2011, with his reconstruction of the outbreak of war in March 1992—when the author was 11, Bosnia-Herzegovina had declared its independence from Yugoslavia, and the well-armed Serbs launched a bloody campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the majority Muslims in the country. Trebincevic and his family were blindsided by the violence, since the diverse ethnic groups had lived in harmony for decades, yet seemingly overnight had to contend with neighbors and teachers hurling ethnic slurs. The family eventually escaped to Connecticut, yet the bonds of loyalty and treachery were so complex and scarring that even after having made his career as a successful physical therapist in Queens, N.Y., Trebincevic, now 30, wrote out a list of scores to settle when he agreed to accompany his father and brother back to their hometown. The great instruction of this important work is the author’s moral transformation that helped him replace hate with grace, if not forgiveness.
Publishers Weekly, December 16, 2013
Spring Books You Shouldn't Miss: We're excited about THE BOSNIA LIST: A MEMOIR OF WAR, EXILE, AND RETURN by Kenan Trebincevic & Susan Shapiro. Penguin. Having been forced from his Bosnian hometown in spring 1992, when former friends and neighbors turned on him and his family because they were Muslim, Trebincevic made it to America. He returned recently with revenge in his heart, but something different happened.
Barbara Hoffert Library Journal, January 19, 2014
I’m so blown away by this beautiful book. For the first time, a young Bosnian tells a riveting coming-of-age story about the brutal Balkan war when parents disappeared into concentration camps, teachers turned on students and children betrayed children. Two decades later, now an American citizen, Kenan returns to his homeland to confront the guilty and honor the dead in this passionate, nuanced account of a man who refuses to forget.
Julia Lieblich, human rights journalist and author
of “Sisters: Lives of Devotion and Defiance”
Kenan Trebincevic’s story of survival and remembrance is moving, well-told, and important for all of us to hear. He makes a powerful case for courage and human decency as the only way through the divisive madness of modern life.
Ian Frazier, bestselling author of
“Travels in Siberia”
The Bosnia List was difficult to finish because it touched me so deeply. I’ve wondered how another Bosniak could describe their tragedy and traumas, watching the transformation of former friends and neighbors becoming animals. Most powerful was how Kenan’s mother’s voice echoed in his head and became his morality, preventing him from getting revenge. She’s one of the strongest, best described female characters in Bosnian literature. And I was rooting for Kenan’s father not to succumb to evil and stay a good man. That might be why his family survived. That shows us all: if we stay good, we have a chance.
Dr. Esad Boskailo, Psychiatrist, Bosnian war survivor,
and co-author of “Wounded I Am More
Awake: Finding Meaning After Terror”
I'm so glad I got an opportunity to read The Bosnia List...Complex, nuanced, tragic, and joyful, it is a book that will make you ponder your own good fortune and think about the nature of diversity, horror, and compassion. Mr. Trebinčević tells the story of his family's life in Brčko before the war, during the war, after their escape, and upon their return. With an understandable mix of emotions, Mr. Trebinčević is wary about returning, but does so to honor his father's wish to see his home again before he dies. Armed with a list of wrongs, people and places he wants to confront, and a lot of well-deserved anger, the author works his way through his list and finds a situation more complex than he had imagined and comes away with feelings of reconciliation and compassion. I admire him a great deal for the latter. I can't imagine how one reconciles with neighbors who stole from you, threatened you, killed people who looked like you, but the author's example inspires me to continue talking to people and hearing their stories. It's when we lose sight of the grays in the world and huddle in the black and white that we begin to lose our humanity.
Kenan Trebincevic’s “The Bosnia List” (written with Susan Shapiro) tells the harrowing story of a Bosnian Muslim family’s wartime travails, their resettlement in America and then, the author’s return to Bosnia to get resolution, or at least understanding.
Vick Mickunas, Seattle Times
When he received a brown belt from his karate coach it was the happiest moment of Kenan Trebincevic’s life. A year later this same coach arrived at his apartment building with an AK-47 to inform his family that they had one hour to leave or be killed. The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return, which Trebinceviccoauthored with journalist Susan Shapiro, chronicles the war in the Balkans from the perspective of a bewildered 12-year-old boy and a 30-year-old former refugee. Trebincevic grew up knowing Serbs and Croats as well as ethnic Muslims, like his family. Historically Bosnia was religiously and ethnically mixed. He was stunned when war erupted, Europe’s bloodiest since World War II, and suddenly “Most of my old playmates from Bosnia, along with my former martial-arts coach and former teacher, hated me and wanted me to die.” Trebincevic was unable to grasp how something so insignificant, celebrating Ramadan instead of Santa Claus, could trump a lifetime of friendship overnight.
Tyler Kelley, The Brooklyn Rail
Kirkus Review, January 2014
A young New Yorker haunted by searing memories goes on a most unusual overseas vacation – not to sightsee or party but to confront the ordinary men and women who tore his family’s lives apart. His journey takes us into a time of mesmerizing violence and betrayal when neighbors set upon each other as though it were the 1940s all over again – a world of twisted emotions and baffling brutality lying just below the surface of hip contemporary Europe. The Bosnia List is powerful, the flashbacks riveting.
Tom Reiss, bestselling author of the
Pulitzer Prize winning “The Black Count”
With understated elegance and in highly personal pointillist dots, Kenan Trebincevic illuminates how the Bosnian tragedy blighted, and continues to blight, the lives of countless people both in his homeland and in its far-flung diaspora. This important and original work reminds us, in ways large and small, of the long half-life of an atrocity.
David Margolick, bestselling author of “Elizabeth and Hazel:
Two Women of Little Rock”
The Bosnia List tells a fascinating story of a harrowing and heart-rending journey. It’s a graceful, taut memoir of family, friends and faith: a moving recollection of souls being torn asunder and slowly beginning to heal
Laurence Bergreen, bestselling author of
“Columbus: The Four Journeys”
Kenan Trecincevic fights against the power of memory and his own rage in this remembrance of a time that seems like a medieval anachronism yet was barely a decade ago. This is a searing memoir of war and peace from a young man who sees through ancient rhetoric with stunning clarity, both in his home country and his adopted United States. Read this book for its impassioned honesty.
Tom Zoellner, bestselling author of
“A Safeway in Arizona”
An estimated 100,000 people died during the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 1990's, but few Americans grasp the insanity of the conflict. Kenan Trebincevic, a Bosnian Muslim, was 11 when the fighting broke out. He describes how lifelong friends turned on his family, how his brother and father were thrown into detainment camps, and how they eventually fled under nightmarish conditions. He also takes us on a trip home to complete his titular to-do list as he confronts the betrayers and attempts to make sense of the nonsensical.
Mother Jones, January/February 2014
I enjoy reading history and am always horrified when I read of the genocide of the Holocaust during War World II. I have heard many argue why do we continue to talk about something that happen so long ago? The Bosnia List by Kenan Trebinčević is the perfect reason why we must continue to talk about them so that they don’t repeat themselves. Unfortunately they do, and in my life time in the 90s, it happen in Bosnia. The Bosnia List by Kenan Trebinčevič is a very intimate memoir of a man who goes back to a land he left as a boy. His family was caught up in this conflict and their only crime was they were Muslims. Not practicing Muslims but a heritage and Muslim surname. Kenan, who is now an American citizen, takes a journey home to Bosnia to accompany his ailing father whose last wish is to see his homeland for one last time. In order to deal with the psychological pain Kenan might have to deal with he makes a list of things he wants to do when he there and make peace with his past. This book is also a tribute to his mother who wanted to chronicle the family story. Kenan’s story highlights one of the forgotten injustices that has fallen through the cracks of our hurried world. So hard to believe that so many lives were lost in concentration camps under Milosevic’s watch and that neighbor went against neighbor in an effort for self preservation. In the end, the world keeps turning, but we must remind ourselves that we must be vigilant for an end to these human created atrocities. Kenan Trebinčević is a heroic man for being willing to share this raw portrait of an embarrassing episode of human history.
PurePolitics.com, February 2014
I’ve read lots of books about the war in the former Yugoslavia; in fact there are three shelves in my library devoted to it. I am glad to say that one that will go on the top shelf is Kenan Trebincevic’s memoir The Bosnia List. Kenan was twelve when all hell broke loose in his world. One day he was taking karate lessons with his friends and the very next day they considered him their enemy and wished for his demise. Kenan now lives happily in America but the scars of the war run deep within Kenan’s life. He has come up with a list of the people and places he wants to see on trip to homeland with his elderly father and his older brother. His mother succumbed to breast cancer when they immigrated to the United States. He wants to ask the people who did horrible things during the war why they did and do they have any remorse. The book in comprised into two parts. His journey during the war and the journey going back to his hometown. As a reader you turn the pages wondering how could a person survive this and still be a normal human being. Kenan considers himself one of the lucky ones during the war considering all of his family survived the war, most were not so lucky. I always like to think I’m a forgiving person. Someone lies to you and you forgive him or her. It’s that easy. How would you feel if someone dragged your male family members from your house and shot them in front of you? What kind of person would that make you in the future? Could you ever forgive anybody again? Mr. Trebincevic shows us in a new list that you can forgive and come up with a list of things that people did during the war that were kind. Either way, this is a book that you are going want to put right at the top of your reading list. I’ll even go so far and say that I see this book on every high school reading list and a book literally every person should read. It’s a handbook on being human.
Yugoslavia’s descent into war and genocide more than two decades ago has been the subject of outstanding scholarship, journalism, and biography. Trebincevic’s account contributes to this literature in an unusual way. The author blends his childhood experience of Bosnia’s tragedy with a return to his original home in Brcko after nearly 20 years in the United States. The titular list is of goals the author intends to accomplish. They include seeking out surviving friends and relatives as well as confronting Serbs guilty of crimes against Trebincevic’s defenseless Muslim family. The great irony of the narrative consists in the list’s gradual transformation into an enumeration of Serbs who rendered critical help, enabling the family’s survival and flight. Far from being a tale of exoneration, the author’s story is one that reveals the power and limitations of memory, the poignant complexity of human relations in battle, and the catharsis of understanding past betrayal and sacrifice. VERDICT: Combining themes of war, childhood, and return, this memoir is for readers interested in the human drama of brutal conflicts and social dislocation. Knowledge of Balkan history is not necessary.
Zachary Irwin, Penn State political science professor