Drita My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard
📚 Drita My Homegirl 📚
Author: Jenny Lombard
Islamic Content: Ramadan is mentioned, otherwise no info or inclination that this family is actually Muslim
Concerns: a cuss word, historical negligence, inaccurate rep, bullying and physical altercation
Drita and her family moves to New York to join her father. Leaving behind a life of war to start a new one in America. Maxie, a popular classmate gets in trouble alot and when she is told to do a project about Kosovo for Social Studies, she has to make time for Drita to help. As both girls navigate family dynamics, they find themselves getting close to each other.
This chapter book read alternates between Drita and Maxie. The reader gets a glimpse of each one of the girl's lives, thoughts and feeling through the alternating narratives. The tone of the book is a bit dark and as we read on, both girls have traumatic baggage they are trying to move past even though they are at the tender age of 10.
Although I appreciate the effort of the author trying to highlight a story/characters from part of the world the west doesn't know much about, I do have numerous issues with the rep. The Kosovar-Albanian representation is inauthentic and inaccurate.
1 - My biggest issue with this book is the absolute negligence of why the war in Kosovo was caused. The book simply states '...no one knows who started it...' If the concept of explaining the cause of the war in Kosovo that has left thousands Albanians killed/missing and caused over a million to be displaced was too inappropriate for this age group to learn about, at least do not offend the lives of those families who have been tragically impacted by stating no one knows who started it. Simple, there was an oppressor and the oppressed.
2 - Secondly, referencing Kosovo as a city of former Yugoslavia is factually incorrect. A simple google search will tell you a the full map with its cities.
3 - Thirdly, the Albanian culture and language sprinkled through this book has so many errors. 'Çka' is translated as 'so so' when in fact it mean 'What.' One assumption that I have is that whoever was helping with the development of this book in the language and cultural aspect, is from southern Albania who speaks the Tosk dialect and not someone who was actually from Kosovo where the Gegë dialect is spoken.
4 - I was excited to see that the reference to 'byrek me mish' referenced in. However, in one page it describes the grandmother making the dough with eggs and later on when Drita is bullied at school, potato filling spills out of the byrek me mish (literally the translation of byrek me mish is byrek with meat, which is ground beef).
5 - Throughout the book, almost nearly to the end when Drita's English improves, when conversations are quoted, they are done in a way that assumes how an Albanian hears the pronunciation of the English words. In every instance, the sound for TH is always replaced by a V or F. Albanian has 36 letters including 'Th' (things) and 'Dh' (the) sounds. This annoyed me so much. I assume they have had some guidance on it, but did no body have a final check to ensure for accuracy?
6 - Ramadan is referenced as a holy time for Albanian people, which alludes to it being a national specific event, when in fact it is a religious one.
As a Kosovar/Albanian Muslim it is truly disheartening to read this book that feels like careless efforts were made to the details in how this Kosovar family has been represented in literature. Authentic Representation Matters.