A truly enchanting memoir of a young girl witnessing the last gasp of Communism in Albania, and the freshly freed country’s first wobbly steps into a capitalist future. Lea Ypi was raised in a family with ‘a biography’ or political background, and they needed to speak in code to prevent her inadvertently raising suspicion outside the home. Ypi descibers her careless pioneer years and her disillusionment with the ideology that promised so much to Albania’s children, yet disappeared so fast, only to be replaced with a chaotic and sometimes dangerous new world. You’ll never look at a Coke can the same way after reading this fascinating book.
Free: Coming of Age at the End of History, by Lea Ypi, 2021, Penguin www.penguin.co.uk. This book is avaibale at Adrion International Books in Tirana.
Minarets in the Mountains
A fascinating travel book about the Muslim history in the Western Balkans that is at the same time a quest for personal identity, and the origins of European Islamophobia. Londoner Tharik Hussain, family in tow, tours the region, visiting mosques, Sufi lodges and Ottoman architecture, following the footsteps of the 17th-century explorer and travel writer Evliya Çelebi. He spends time in Albania too, visiting the legacy of nearly six centuries of incorporation in the Ottoman Empire, passing through Vlora, Gjirokastra, Berat, Tirana and Kruja. Hussain chats with locals everywhere about their relation to and opinions on Islam, meeting critics and converts, and discussing Albania’s curious mix of Bektashi sufism and newer, more conservative Muslim belief.
Minarets in the Mountains, by Tharik Hussain, 2021, Bradt www.bradt.co.uk.