Books by Ellen Blackman

Released: July 1, 1997

So unfocused is the author's account of her humanitarian work in Sarajevo that the ``lost children'' of the subtitle literally become lost in what is primarily a tale of one woman's Bosnian adventures. Blackman was a successful public-relations consultant in Chicago when she was jolted from her pampered existential stupor by footage of suffering children in Bosnia. Reaching deep into her dormant Jewish past, she began to think of Bosnia and its Muslims as the victims of a modern-day Holocaust. She decided to act. With a borrowed flak jacket, her savings in her pockets, and only the most naive and abstract notion of her goals, she headed for Sarajevo. A ten-day stay expanded to eight months as the author, her own favorite heroine, decided to battle the forces of indifference and incompetence (code words, in Blackman-ese, for the UN). She was the catalyst behind numerous rescue operations, from evacuating sick babies and children to finding a source for salt to keep Saravejo's bakery going. Nevertheless, Blackman's victories over red tape is only part of the story. From the start it is clear that her departure for Sarajevo is also a personal journey of discovery and growth. This aspect of Blackman's narrative ultimately dominates; her disjointed and self-indulgent chronicle includes lengthy passages on her discovery of the ``true meaning of friendship and love'' amid hardship. While Blackman does capture the generosity and warmth of Sarajevo's citizens, she presents an uninformed view of the overall political situation. She persists in viewing the war, the result of complex historical and ethnic tensions, as ``a clear-cut case of good versus evil.'' Her continuous attacks on the UN are jarring and unconvincing. And stylistic problems, most prominently in the form of abundant clichÇs, serve as constant irritations. An unpolished chronicle by a self-conscious do-gooder. (photos, not seen) Read full book review >