MY NAME WAS HUSSEIN by Hristo Kyuchukov


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Age Range: 7 - 12
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What appears to be a standard I-am-Roma-and-this-is-how-we-live story takes a dramatic turn halfway through, packing a substantial wallop. “My name was Hussein,” begins this small, big-eyed boy, staring directly at the reader, before he explains how his Roma family lives in Bulgaria and practices Islam. Line-and-watercolor illustrations feature greens and browns and a liberal use of white negative space as they show Hussein and his family happily celebrating Ramadan. The text is simple and ingenuous, giving the whole an almost unbearably naïve air—until “one day everything changed. The army came with tanks, cannons, guns, and dogs,” and two tanks rumble in from the left and right, framing the village at gunpoint. It appears that in the mid-1980s, as war raged through Serbia, Bulgaria quietly practiced some ethnic cleansing of its own and forced its ethnic minorities to adopt Christian names. “Now I have a new identity card, too. It says my name is Harry. . . . My name was Hussein.” The directness of the narrative underscores Hussein’s emotional upheaval and turns an entirely pedestrian tale into a significant and very personal chronicle. An author’s note provides historical context. (Picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-56397-964-0
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Boyds Mills
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2004


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