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Reviewed by:
  • World in Between: Based on a True Refugee Story by Kenan Trebinčcević
  • Deborah Stevenson, Editor
Trebinčcević, Kenan World in Between: Based on a True Refugee Story; by Kenan Trebinčcević and Susan Shapiro. Clarion,
2021 [384 p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780358439875 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780358440932 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 5-7

Kenan is eleven in 1992, when growing Serb nationalism in Yugoslavia makes him and his Muslim family the enemy. His normal life of good scholarship, good soccer, and minimal popularity abruptly turns into one of persecution as the Serbs enact oppressive restrictions on Muslims, commandeer their homes, relocate many to murderous camps, and yet refuse to let Kenan's family leave the country. Finally, in 1993 he, his older brother, and his parents manage to escape to Vienna, where a kind Austrian family finds a place for them to stay, but their real goal is the U.S. Later that year they're accepted into the U.S. as refugees under a Connecticut church's sponsorship, and Kenan struggles to adjust to a new country and several new living quarters and two new schools in succession, all the time hoping desperately, futilely, for a return to his Bosnian home and the life that was destroyed. Classified by the author as autobiographical fiction, the book reads like memoir, shaped by real-life plot rhythms rather than a traditional novelistic trajectory but still rendered accessible to younger readers. Young Kenan's love of soccer, the one unchallengeable competency he brings to his new country, is an effective and relatable throughline, and readers will also sympathize with his culture shock both at a rich Connecticut school and a tougher one. Most poignant is Kenan's difficulty in [End Page 443] believing that friends and even his beloved teacher (who, as a paramilitary, attempts to shoot Kenan) have transformed into enemies, and there's an ongoing theme of both good and evil (or at least good and corruption) appearing in unexpected places. While young readers may not be familiar with the events, the immediacy of Kenan's narration will allow other transplanted children to relate and kids with more fortunate lives to contemplate the thin line between safety and tragedy. An author's note explains a little more about his process and work with his co-author.



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pp. 443-444
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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