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Literature Annotation: Zlata's Diary
By Zlata Filipovic

Zlata's Diary, New York: Viking, 1994.

Zlata Filipovic, who wrote this diary when she was 13 years old, has been called the "Anne Frank of Sarajevo." Completed in 1991-1992 during the war in Bosnia, the diary was bought by an American publisher for $560,000 and $1 million was handed over for the film rights by a Hollywood studio.

Target Audience: Middle school, High school

Genre: Nonfiction

Length: 197 pages

Availability: Paperback $9.95 / Library Binding $18.05

Summary: Zlata's Diary opens with a list of the "cast of characters" including Zlata's family and friends of Zlata and her parents. The actual entries start with the beginning of her fifth grade year: Monday, September 2, 1991. Before the war, Zlata Filipovic lived the ordinary life of a teenage girl. She describes piano lessons, tennis lessons, test taking, her love for Saturdays, and a friend's "super" birthday party. She also mentions watching "American Top 20" on MTV and getting A's on her math and language tests and her biology oral. A weekend trip to Crnotina is called "wonderful ...we picked pears, apples, walnuts, we took pictures of a clever little squirrel that stole the walnuts, in the evening we had a barbecue..." Zlata's life so far seems idyllic and happy.

However, by October 19, the downward spiral commences. Zlata's father is called up by the police reserve, and news of terrible destruction in Dubrovnik begins to be broadcast daily. Zlata's family does not plan a New Year's Eve party as they have in the past. By March 5, things are beginning to "heat up in Sarajevo—a wedding guest is killed by armed civilians and the city is full of barricades." By April, the schools are closed and many sections of Sarajevo are being shelled. Zlata's family begins spending nights in their cellar.

As time went on, things get progressively worse and worse: constant shooting and shelling cause the death of an 11-year-old friend of Zlata's named Niona, and another friend, Selma, loses a kidney. The phones stop working, so the family has no way to communicate with loved ones in other parts of the city. The many deaths of friends and relatives have to be read about in the paper. There is no electricity and no running water. All the windows in Zlata's apartment are destroyed by a "revolting" shell, so they live with only plastic sheeting to protect them. Their country house is burned down.

Zlata shared her diaries with a teacher in the summer of 1993 and read part of an entry at her promotion on the 17th. She instantly became famous, besieged by journalists and reporters and was even the subject of an ABC news piece.

Commentary: This diary can be used well in a history/social studies class studying the war in Bosnia. The descriptive and harrowing first person account will help the students to imagine what it would be like to live in a city at war. Students will also be able to identify with her pre-war life. Much like Anne Frank, Zlata's Diary helps students to see war through the perspective of a person their age.

Suggested Module(s): Stereotypes, Ethics, and Universal Values

The Impact of Conflict and Civil War on Identity

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