June 2020 | Books & Links

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My Cat Yugoslavia – Pajtim Statovci

I really enjoyed this one. My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci has a split narrative between a young Kosovan bride and her son Bekim’s experience growing up and coming of age in Finland after the family – ethnic Albanians – moved there to escape the war back home in Kosovo. The novel spans two decades as Statovci gradually spins their lives together, revealing the sequence of events which have led mother and son to become estranged from one another, and Bekim to feel like an outsider both in Finland and Kosovo.

Bekim, a gay refugee, lives a solitary life in Helsinki where he shares an apartment with a boa constrictor – despite being terrified of snakes – and a racist, homophobic, talking cat. The novel is claustrophobic, melancholy, and beautifully written; a story of estrangement, loneliness, and a haunting portrait of life as a refugee. I couldn’t help but wonder what to make of the talking cat, whether it exists in physical form or is a figment of Bekim’s imagination and deep insecurities.

Pajtim Statovci is a brilliant writer, and I can’t wait to read more of his work in years to come. I have my eyes on his other work to date – Crossing – and look forward to reading it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

Articles & Essays & Links

From 2015 on the history of British slave ownership. Interesting but horrifying. I am ashamed to say that I was ignorant both of the extent to which British slave owners were offered financial compensation, and of how widespread slave ownership was.

Working as a cleaner to fund herself through college as a single mother, writer Stephanie Land learned a lot about her clients’ lives through the detritus of their everyday lives.

Life after a childhood in the church of Scientology. I find myself drawn to accounts by adults who have grown up in religious cults, because I want to know what it might be like for my five, soon to be six – and counting – nephews who are being raised in one. I have no contact with their mother but will be there for them as young men should they start to question the dogma they have grown up with.

A piece about a man who was raised in one of Romania’s orphanages before being adopted by a family from the USA.