Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Book Recommendations?

I'm looking for any book suggestions you would recommend for a high school class (juniors/seniors -16-18 year olds) on the Bosnian genocide.

Unlike, "Leave None To Tell The Story" and "We Wish To Inform You..." written about the Rwandan genocide, there doesn't seem to be any all encompassing, "end all, be all" books on the Bosnian genocide.

The course will apparently focus primarily on the Holocaust, but the instructor is also looking for a book or two, on the Bosnian genocide she can use in her course as well.

Thank you.


Balkan Ghost said...

Good point, there isn't really a good, all-encompassing book on the war.

Maybe you could write it?

Shaina said...

Actually, I would love to someday write a book, I've always enjoy writing and I even enjoy (gasp!) research too.

The closest book I can consider to an all encompassing book is "Death of Yugoslavia." Which of course, tells the ENTIRE story of the fall of Yugoslavia from the Slovenian Spring to Dayton.

But, there doesn't seem to be any book out there which focuses primarily on Bosnia, in any all encmpassing way; the way "We Wish To Inform" you does for the Rwandan genocide.

That seems to be irony of the situation, exactly because there was so much journalist attention to Bosnia; it allowed journalists and researchers to focus on a specific sub topic, within the theme of the larger Bosnian war.
With Rwanda, there is so little literature, in comparision, that the authors usually can't just focus on a specific aspect of the Rwandan genocide story, and usually focus on the entire event.

Anonymous said...

I really think Joe Sacco's graphic novel 'Safe Area Gorazde' or 'Zlata's Diary' are the best ones for younger people. Frankly you can overwhelm people who are young, you can wind up desensitizing them rather than educating them. One book I've heard lots of good things about is Michael Sell's book 'A Bridge Betrayed' You can have a look at it here. I've read only excerpts and it looks like a decent book.
The big thing is I'm sure you want to both avoid taking sides AND moral equivalency. That is tough. We I think allknow the books that DON'T work! :)

Shaina said...

I've read "The Bridge Betrayed" and it is a good book. He deals with a subject that many might find "taboo"-the role of religious institutions in perpetrating ethnic cleansing. What I found also well done, is that he spent some length looking at the case of Mostar and the HVO and their venture into ethnic cleansing, and the alliance between Milosevic & Tudjman as well.

Another book, although it probably isn't appropriate for an high school class that is not that familiar with Bosnia is, "Genocide In Bosnia." It is probably too dry and academic, but it is very well put together and makes a very effective argument that the ethnic cleansing campaign was genocide against the Bosniaks (the book was published in 1995, while the war was still waging on.) It is written in, what I found to be a straight forward, unemotional, and unbiased style; it is also very well documented and meticulously sourced as well.

Furthermore, from what I got out of his book (and the Sells' book as well) both authors seem to have similar views of the war that I do:

There are war criminals to be found in every ethnic group; and every ethnic group has civilians who were victims of war crimes and atrocities. There is obviously no excuse for committing atrocities against civilians.
However, there is absolutely no moral and legal guilt equivilancy between the sides. Numerically, the Bosniaks were the largest victims.
Even more importantly, than the quanitiative difference, is the qualitative difference. There is a difference between genocide committed by and planned and supported by state & army institutions, and war crimes and attrocities committed by certain units and rogue soldiers!
And it was only the VRS and the RS government, (with help from Serbia) that planned and carried out a genocide.

It seems that sometimes people have trouble seeing the distinction between war crimes and genocide.
And of course, there is a major difference between acknowledging the indvidual suffering and indvidual guilt of victims and perps, regardless of their ethnicity; and falling into the trap of moral equivilancy and saying that each of the sides is just as guilty as the other; and that if one side is guilty of genocide, than every side is guilty of genocide!

I think Zlata's Diary is too young for a high school course, I read the book in the 5th grade. :)
And while, it gives a good personal account, from the perspective of a child growing up in Sarajevo; it doesn't add much to the understanding of what happened in the war.

Shaina said...

BTW: here is my review to the "Genocide In Bosnia" book.