Amra Pajalić’s Things Nobody Knows About Me.
Amra Pajalić has written this memoir in the style of a novel. She makes frequent use of dialogue and describes in detail how people thought and felt. She avers that ‘while every event depicted in this book did occur, I have used fictional devices to recreate dialogue and setting. . . . I have also compressed timelines slightly in order to create narrative flow.’ That this memoir has been partially fictionalised, however, does not detract from its sincerity or frankness.
Pajalić recounts her childhood exploits and relationships with no holds barred. This includes her sexual experiences, conveyed as fully as the other events that shape her life. That sexual abuse occurred then, as now, is hardly a surprise. A friend tells the teenage Pajalić, ‘My uncle comes and plays with me while Mum is at work. He takes off our pants and we do stuff.’ This is the same friend who shows her how to steal chocolate bars.
Pajalić spent many years of her childhood in Bosnia, being brought up by her grandparents, who held old-fashioned rules about how a young girl should behave. They cared for her in their own way, even if that included instances of painful physical punishment. Breakfast was ready for her and everyone in the household when they rose because her grandmother would start her long day by getting up at five in the morning to milk the cows, collect the eggs and prepare food.
However, most of Pajalić’s youth was spent in Australia, and in the part-time care of her mother, Fatima. Many of Pajalić’s recollections feature her mother with whom she had a strange and difficult relationship, overwhelmingly because, unknown to her, Fatima was afflicted with bipolar disorder. Fatima’s illness was misdiagnosed for many years which resulted in her being frequently in and out of hospital, and in being subjected to incorrect and damaging mistreatment. When she was not ill, Fatima was a loving parent, although at times her desire for a suitable partner got in the way of her other relationships.
There are many reasons that can motivate a person to write a memoir. It could be to record past friends and family, it could be to set the record straight on events in which they played a role, it could be for self-aggrandisement or to emphasise a point of view. Pajalić’s motivation to write her memoir is clear from her dedication of Things Nobody Knows But Me:
‘Dedicated to my mother, Fatima, and all the women who came before me whose lives were full of sacrifice, so that mine would be full of choices. And for my daughter, Sofia, who stands on the shoulders of these strong women and is able to reach for the sky because of them.’
Pajalić has succeeded in making her point with this memoir. Because of the strong women in her past, who did the best for her in difficult situations, she was able to make good choices for her career and marriage and is confident that her daughter will have even better prospects than she had.
Rating: 4 stars ★★★★
Things Nobody Knows But Me
By Amra Pajalić
Imprint: Transit Lounge Publishing
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: 1 May 2019
Categories: Forthcoming, Non-Fiction