LEFT COAST WRITERS FERRY PLAZA BOOK PARTY: Mother Tongue: A Saga of Three Generations of Balkan Women by Tania Romanov
What is your mother tongue? Sometimes the simplest questions take a book to answer. Tania didn’t know why she spoke Serbian, rather than Croatian, with her mother, Zora. It never occurred to her to ask until she started writing Mother Tongue.
The unrelenting consequences of 100 years of Balkan wars have forced three generations of Croatian women—Katarina, Zora, and Tania—to flee their homelands multiple times. Eventually, Tania, a successfully integrated American, journeys back to her fractured homeland with her mother to unravel the secrets of their shared past and history as she looks for answers.
Mother Tongue is an exploration of lives lived in the chaos of the Balkans. It follows countries that dissolved, formed, and reformed; lands that were conquered and subjugated by Fascists and Nazis and nationalists; lives lived in exile, in refugee camps, in new worlds.
“Mother Tongue is a story about identity in the context of history. Romanov was born in just one place but the country she came from keeps changing as the tides of history keep sweeping over the Balkans. Framed as a journey to her parents’ hometown in what is now Croatia, Romanov’s story is really about tracking the improbable line that led to who she is, down through her own life, her parents’ lives and the lives of her ancestors. The Balkans are a tangle many of us tend to gloss over because we can’t get inside it. With this fascinating memoir, Tania Romanov takes us there.”
―Tamim Ansary, author of West of Kabul East of New York
“In Mother Tongue—a story for our times—writer, photographer and world traveler Tania Romanov follows the life journeys of three generations of women (Katerina, Zora, and herself) as she pieces together a complex picture of the fragmentation, war and upheaval that has tormented the people of the area known as ‘the Balkans’ for centuries. As she digs deeper, painful truths are revealed, truths that lead her back to the refugee camps of her infancy and the losses and collateral damage of war.”
―Linda Watanabe McFerrin, author of Namako, The Hand of Buddha and Dead Love
“This is of historical and cultural significance. In a way, Romanov has done a service to every emigrant, to all the displaced persons out there, to the current refugee crisis, and done it by affirming the great value of ‘a melting pot.’ The forces that shape a people, that shape an individual person are so complex, and so easy to misunderstand―even by those they affect most deeply.”
―Gay Wind Campbell, author of Images Par Deux
Tania Romanov Amochaev was born in Belgrade, Serbia of two displaced émigrés―a Russian father and a Croatian mother―and spent her childhood in San Sabba, a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy. After arriving in America on the SS Constitution in 1954, Amochaev grew up in San Francisco, California and earned a
degree in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley. She then forged a successful business career, serving as CEO of three technology companies, earning an MS in Management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and receiving an honorary PhD from Saint Catherine University in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Amochaev is a founder of the Healdsburg Literary Guild in California and the educational non-profit Public School Success Team, which mobilizes community volunteers to reduce public high school dropout rates. She has climbed Mount Whitney and Mount Kenya, circumnavigated Annapurna, trekked through Bhutan and Kashmir, and sailed along remote rivers in Burma (Myanmar). She lives in SanFrancisco, but spends several months each year traveling the world.