Aleksandar Hemon has been telling critically acclaimed stories for years, most notably, perhaps, in "The Lazarus Project," which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In his latest collection, "The Book of My Lives," he tells his own stories.
Hemon, who is originally from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, came to Chicago in 1992; he hadn't planned to stay but couldn't return after war broke out back home. In "The Book of My Lives" he writes about his childhood in the former Yugoslavia, early adult years in the army and in the Sarajevo scene, and later adult years in Chicago. He offers meditations about displacement and what it means to adopt a new home and map a personal landscape. He writes about chess and soccer and the relationships he builds around those pursuits. And then he ends the book with "Aquarium," the devastating story of his year-old daughter's death.
We didn't choose this book because Hemon has made Chicago his home — although he writes compellingly about it in such a way that it could take its place on the shelf of great Chicago literature. Many of these stories have been published elsewhere before, but taken together, they offer a glimpse of a life — a father, a son, an immigrant — and of loss. Readers of Hemon's previous works may see some parallels with his invented characters. But the universal truths found in his memoir feel all the more powerful for being grounded in his own, sometimes painfully real, life.
— Jennifer Day, Printers Row Journal editor
The book is due out March 19. Hemon will appear at a Printers Row Live event at 7 p.m. March 20. A members-only reception will be at 6:30 p.m. For details, visit printersrowjournal.com.