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
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
Suggested Module(s): Stereotypes, Ethics, and Universal Values
The Impact of Conflict and Civil War on Identity