The Day Of The Pelican

Meli Lleshi is positive that her drawing of her teacher with his pelican nose started it all. The Lleshis are Albanians living in Kosovo, a country trying to fight off Serbian oppressors, and suddenly they are homeless refugees. Old and young alike, they find their courage tested by hunger, illness, the long, arduous journey, and danger on every side. Then, unexpectedly, they are brought to America by a church group and begin a new life in a small Vermont town. The events of 9/11 bring more challenges for this Muslim family–but this country is their home now and there can be no turning back. A compassionate, powerful novel by a master storyteller.

Read more about The Day of the Pelican in WOW Review.

One thought on “The Day Of The Pelican

  1. S. Aziz & M. Wilson says:

    Melissa
    While reading this book I was reminded of the class, International Children’s Literature, which I took from Kathy Short as part of my PhD program at the U of A. The initial question we explored in the course was “Who can tell my story?” This, I recall, morphed in to a more interesting, albeit cynical, question of, “Why would an outsider want to tell my story?” Although the narrative of the Kosovo war is not my own, I do wonder why Ms. Patterson chose to write this particular story.

    Seemi
    Like you, Melissa, I also questioned why the author chose to present a culture so very different from what she is used to and after so much time had passed. But I think this story was a necessary one to be told as this genocide occurred within Europe and it was allowed to go on without any international intervention to curb the violence against Muslims. Further, she seemed to skim over the torture of Bosnian, Serbian, Albanian and Kosovar Muslims within that historical event again in the heart of Europe.

    Melissa
    Partially I wonder because the war in Kosovo is largely forgotten by the general public; the context of the conflict is complicated, and the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been more personal. I studied the demise of the former Yugoslavia as an undergraduate majoring in Political Science and I found the novel confusing and I haven’t met anyone whose loved ones died in Kosovo. It seems to me too far away and too long ago to have meaning in my life as a 43-year-old, let alone in the lives of the intended audience of 3-6th graders.

    Seemi
    I agree that it is a forgotten war to the general public here but not for the lives it had touched; that of the refugees who turned up here. This war personally touched and became real for me when my husband’s uncle called us from Serbia to tell us that his oldest son, (a born Serbian Muslim), was taken by Serbian forces to fight for them. He was jailed and tortured because he refused to do so. Interestingly, all of his maternal family were and are Christians. After a lot of time and persistent effort he was released and they as a family ran from their place of birth to our home in Pakistan, as it was not safe for them in their own country. I heard and saw what they had gone through as this part of my family was exposed to me for the first time after marriage. I also personally know a lot of Bosnian and Serbian Muslims living in Tucson and the tales they tell about their traumatic experiences are very dissimilar from the story under review. This story lacks the depth of empathy that was required to tell it.

    Melissa
    I also don’t feel as if I lived through the Muslim experience in this novel. I wasn’t confronted with the moral ambiguities that were present in Shooting Kabul, which made me question my own biases and tacit understandings of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Ms. Patterson makes it abundantly clear, through the character of Baba, that hate is bad, while never really delving in to the root of the hatred. When the family learns that the 9/11 bombers all were Muslims, the father’s reaction was to mention that the prophet (Mohammed) never sanctioned violence. I wonder, is that the whole story? I know in my religion (Judaism) we are not supposed to kill and yet, in the Torah, there are many examples of killing for the good of Israel. Just as in the media today, there are countless articles about the killing of Muslims by Jews and Jews by Muslims in Israel and Palestine, both sides backed by religion. There is always another side and when that other side is ignored, I wonder why the story was ever told.

    Seemi
    Yes, this story does not make one think too much about any of the experiences as it does not provide a challenge to contest. Islam means ‘peace’ and violence against humanity is definitely prohibited, but like all religions, specifically the Abrahamic ones, there are instances of violence in their past and present. The problem occurs when it is only the violence that seems to represent Islam. I do agree that there is always another side to every story and one people’s hero maybe another’s villain.

    Melissa
    I wonder what impression readers will walk away with of the Serbs? That they are inhuman monsters? Nazi-like predators whose very evil makes them caricatures rendering them impossible to understand and further inoculating the reader from living through the experience. I am eager to hear your take Seemi!

    Seemi
    Generalizations are always a concern. Yes, the reality is that some Serbian’s were “Nazi-like predators” who took it upon themselves to ethnically cleanse their land of Muslims (reminds one of another event in Europe). But I would never generalize and label all Serbs as monsters as it takes all sorts of people to makeup a country and an integral part of my own family is Serbian. My husband’s Aunt was a Serbian with a wonderful and gentle soul (she passed away last month, may God rest her soul in peace) I have beautiful memories of her, as she loved me like a daughter.

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