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The Stone Fields: An Epitaph for the Livingby Courtney A Brkic
Synopses & Reviews
When she was twenty-three years old, Courtney Angela Brkic joined a UN-contracted forensic team in eastern Bosnia. Unlike many aid workers, Brkic was drawn there by her family history, and although fluent in the language, she was advised to avoid letting local workers discover her ethnicity. Brkic helped set up a morgue in Tuzla, assisting pathologists with autopsies and laying out personal effects for photographing. Later, she helped excavate graves at Srebenica, where many thousands had been indiscriminately slaughtered.
This was not the only excavating she was doing. As she describes the gruesome work of recovering remains and transcribing the memories of survivors, she also explores her family's history in Yugoslavia, telling of her grandmother's childhood in Herzegovina, early widowhood, and imprisonment during World War II for hiding her Jewish lover. The Stone Fields, deeply personal and wise, asks what it takes to prevent the violent loss of life, and what we are willing to risk in the process.
"This heartbreaking memoir wends between Brkic's years in war-ravaged Bosnia (1993, 1996 — 1997), first interviewing refugees and then excavating mass graves outside Srebrenica, where 7,000 Muslim males were slaughtered, and including her family's history in Bosnia-Herzegovina surrounding WWII. Brkic, an archeologist, was 21 when she first began working in Bosnia with the UN International War Crimes Tribunal, and 24 during her second foray, with Physicians for Human Rights. A first-generation American of Croatian descent, she returns to Bosnia, invoking what, postwar, is only memory: the land of idyllic childhood summers where she remembers her aunt's catfish swimming in a tub and the taste of lamb fed on chamomile leaves in a countryside now littered with land mines. In the former garment factory, now morgue, outside Tuzla, where she works, Brkic feels alien to the other human rights workers; her ties to the region superimpose the face of her brother on the newly dead; her assertion that not everyone bears equivalent guilt for the war causes her to angrily demand that Serb workers not excavate the mass graves she believes they had a hand in filling. Whiting Award winner Brkic's haunting, hopeless memoir is an agonizing treatise on the awful cost of war and its long, pain-stoked aftermath in which, as she records it, those outside forget and those inside can barely continue living. Photos, maps. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
When she was 23 years old, Brkic joined a UN forensic team in eastern Bosnia. Here, she describes the gruesome work of recovering remains and transcribing the memories of survivors. She also explores her family's history in Yugoslavia.
About the Author
Courtney Angela Brkic is the author of Stillness, for which she won the prestigious Whiting Award. She has worked for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague and for Physicians for Human Rights. She lives in Ohio.
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