Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Middle Grade and YA Lit: Three Summers

 Just short of twenty years ago when I started teaching in my current district, there was a large influx of Bosnian refugees in the community.  For years I have tried to find literature for these students about their culture and community.  

Until Three Summers by Amra Sabic El-Rayass, the only books I found were The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson and Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic.  This book was a pleasant surprise for me.

This memoir begins in the 1980s in Bosnia as tensions increase over the course of a couple of years.  Five cousins look forward to the summers when they can spend time together.  After the first summer together the girls feel like sisters and look forward to the next summer when they'll be together again. 

In some ways they seem isolated from the tensions growing around them, happy to be experiencing the normal, ordinary adolescent things like crushes on boys.  But eventually even they cannot ignore what is going on in the world around them.  

This book is an interesting look at an event that some of my students have heard their parents talk about their entire lives.  It does a great job of explaining why the conflict occurred and how it impacted this one family in particular.  Although it is a memoir about a war, there is hope in this story and Sabic-El-Rayess shows the beauty of the Bosnian culture and their deep love of family.  I appreciated the end notes that contained information about where the members of this family ended up after the war and how their lives have unfolded.

I didn't know what to expect going into this book, but I was happily surprised with the entire memoir.  I have students as well as a few Bosnian translators I'd like to recommend it to and then discuss it with.

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