Miss Ex-Yugoslavia by Sofija Stefanovic
In a world increasingly characterised by large-scale migration, Miss Ex-Yugoslavia offers a fresh, youthful take on what it means to navigate two vastly different cultures and identities. In her debut memoir, Sofija Stefanovic explores the ironies of growing up in a place that no longer exists, and how it feels to be both an outsider and an insider in two countries: one in the process of disintegrating, the other evolving.
Stefanovic was born into a Yugoslavia already betraying signs of cracks, and spent her early childhood in Belgrade under Slobodan Milošević’s authoritarian rule. As conflict and poverty continued to escalate, she and her family migrated to Melbourne, Australia. This was the first move in what would be a continual back and forth between the two cities. And so began an uphill battle to adapt to giant spiders, sprawling suburbs and a strange foreign language, while back at home Yugoslavia continued to descend into warfare and chaos, as separate, ethnically diverse regions continually pushed for autonomy from Milošević’s rule.
Stefanovic writes with unflinching honesty of a childhood torn between her heritage and her new home, the strangeness of a newfound community of ex-Yugoslavs, and the struggles of adapting to a foreign culture as a migrant family. Yet deeper than this is an often hilarious, often heartfelt story of childhood – of a loss of innocence, and of slowly, searchingly becoming a woman.
In a deeply funny, self-deprecating tone, Stefanovic is not afraid to describe, in graphic detail, the trials of womanhood, of puberty, of first loves and first rejections, and of struggling to be understood and to understand your own place in the world.
Miss Ex-Yugoslavia is a warm reflection on family, love, loss, and war that announces a powerful new voice on the Australian literary scene.