A great review of Things Nobody Knows But Me in the Weekly Times.
"This gritty, poignant and at-times humorous book will make readers feel open-hearted to the author and her experiences."
Sandra Ruttan commissioned me to write this column about representation of Muslim characters in fiction.
"publishing has lacked diverse voices ... The lack of diverse characters means that those from minority backgrounds don’t see their own stories and experiences being reflected in books they read." @AmraPajalic talks about #Muslim representation in fiction
On Life Matters talking to Hilary Harper about my memoir and the seminal moment when a teacher helped me discover what my mother’s mental illness is called.
Thank you Tara Mitchell for your insightful questions and for featuring me in the Writers Victoria Q&A. Read here.
Full review online here.
Things Nobody Knows But Me opens with Amra Pajalić learning, at age 16, that her mother’s illness is in fact bipolar disorder, and proceeds to build back to this moment. Through interlinked vignettes, she presents complex portraits of maternal grandmother Adevija, mother Fatima and her child self, and examines the fractured relationships between all three. The episodic structure compartmentalises key events, supporting Pajalić to juggle multiple perspectives effectively, while also providing much-needed emotional respite. As she pieces together her family’s past from their accounts – Adevija’s marriage is the result of blackmail and Fatima’s is arranged – the author experiences, and demonstrates, the power of storytelling.
Mental illness continues to be stigmatised within many migrant communities, its causes and treatment misunderstood. Pajalić recalls the family friends who stepped up to care for her and her brother, as well as the judgement her mother faced, likening Fatima’s experience to being “exiled again”. The family’s relocation, from St Albans in Melbourne’s west to Bosanska Gradiška and back, offers a rare glimpse into rural life and prejudices in 1980s Bosnia, before the war that would break up Yugoslavia.
Amid the chaos, Pajalić remains alert to beauty and humour. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman with a mental illness must be in want of a husband,” she quips, “to facilitate her escape from familial domination.” Forced to fend for herself from a young age, Pajalić is alert, too, to the living situations of her playmates, some of whom are abused by their guardians. This empathy, together with Pajalić’s knack for writing unruly young characters, suggests the memoir will resonate with teens as well as adults.
The outcome of Fatima’s correct diagnosis is ultimately condensed into a paragraph, life-changing but an afternote. Given the memoir’s emphasis on relationships, this decision is understandable; it does, however, make for an abrupt conclusion.
Pajalić has spent her life protecting her mother, while also bearing witness to her strength. Fatima, like so many women, has wrestled for control of her fate, making innumerable sacrifices for her children. Bipolar disorder has shaped their lives, but as Pajalić defiantly makes clear, it defines neither her mother nor their relationship.
Transit Lounge, 272pp, $29.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 18, 2019 as "Amra Pajalić, Things Nobody Knows But Me". Subscribe here.
Had the privilege of being interviewed on 3CR Community Radio Published or Not segment by David McClean about my book. I loved his introduction: “dislocation, dysfunction and depression--these are terms we don’t usually like to associate with a child’s upbringing but Amra Pajalic fathoms the forces that shaped her life in her autobiography Things Nobody Knows But Me.”
You can listen online on this link from 11.55 minutes to hear my interview. My voice is not usually this raspy! I’m still in recovery from a virus. In the first half is Wayne Marshall, an emerging writer, who has a short story collection being published next year.
Things Nobody Knows But Me is featured in the Readings Mother's Day Catalogue. So this means it would make a good gift for your mother for this weekend. Mmm, something to think about. #transitloungepublishing #thingsnobodyknowsbutme #memoir #bipolare
Very excited to be featured on the Booklovers Review website to share the inspiration behind my new book Things Nobody Knows But Me.
Today is publication day and my book baby is out into the world. It's been a long time coming and I'm so excited. Thank you Jodi Wiley and Lucy Honan for spotting my memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me at Readings in State Library of Victoria and sending me a photo.
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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