Thursday, September 30, 2010

Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo

Filipovic, Zlata. Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Plot Summary
Here's the diary of twelve year old Zlata. The first entries in the diary are typical tween musings and concerns about things pre-teens care about and then when war hits Sarajevo, the entries change. Zlata's childhood is robbed by "kids playing war" without regard for the inhabitants of the city. The diary covers two years, one of which is during the war.

My Thoughts
Reading this was interesting to see the point of view from a child of how war affects the family. The diary entries cover two years. They are without electricity or gas, yet they survive. Friends and family are injured or flee the city, yet they survive. The schools are closed and semi-reopened, and they survive. This book shows the reader how life can continue, in spite of the challenges that war brings.

She compares her journal to Anne Frank's. Yet she hopes that her end is not the same as Anne's. She even named her journal because Anne named her's. "Minny" becomes the place that Zlata can deal with what's happening in her life. She doesn't get too deep with her thoughts, which I wondered if that was a translation issue. I was amazed that reporters came to Sarajevo, yet didn't seem to offer the family aid. Could they not? Why was there a was in Sarajevo? What were the "kids" discussing in Geneva that Zlata references often? Zlata begs in her journal for peace.

When the bird is without food, family and friends gather some. Is this a survival tactic? Feeding the bird offers hope?

Zlata, in her youthful innocence, believes that her friend will return, "I want him to come back, and that's why I think he will" (Filipovic 141). He doesn't.

Honestly, after reading entry after entry, I became bored reading this diary. I found myself skimming instead of reading. I don't know the history of why there was fighting, and I didn't learn any more from reading this journal. I appreciate that the editors did not insert their own entries into the diary, and I did get the child's perspective, however I found in spite of the tragedy, Zlata seemed too cheerful.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

South of Broad

Conroy, Pat. South of Broad. New York: Dial Press, 2009.

Plot Summary
Leo King shares the story of his life in Charleston and the many people that he encountered one summer that became his life-long friends.

My Thoughts
The story was compelling, but the last hundred pages seemed a bit...forced. It is like Conroy is trying to include all the cliches (e.g., gay actor with AIDS, pedophile priest, emotionally distant mother). I enjoyed the characters, but question the believability of this group of kids becoming life-long friends, especially friends that literally drop everything for two weeks to help one of the group. I also think it was a bit too convenient for one of the town's businessmen to help Leo so much.

I didn't like how Conroy finished Sheba & Trevor's dad's story. Again, it didn't seem believable to me. Conroy makes references to Broad Street in Charleston and how this is both a physical dividing line of the town as well as a socio-economic one. Haves and have nots, privileged and poor, black and white are all issues described in this book.

Leo, known as Toad, has a nervous breakdown at a very young age. This breakdown is evident throughout the story, yet he seems at times, the most sane and normal of the characters. I enjoyed reading about his paper route, as I once had a route myself. The paper carrier is a great observer of people. Leo eventually leaves the route and becomes a journalist for the paper that of his childhood route. His parents past also become an important piece of Leo's story. Once he learns of his parents' past, Leo begins to understand so many things of his own life.

This was my first read of Pat Conroy. I will probably pick up another of his books because I enjoyed most of this book. I found myself underlining passages in the book because of the way they were written. Conroy's characters are memorable.

Ironically, there is a reference to September 8, which I read on September 8.