Ner­mi­na’s Chance

September 1, 2021

War sears its imprint on the human spir­it in infi­nite ways. After her fam­i­ly is mur­dered and her body is rav­aged by Ser­bian sol­diers, Ner­mi­na Beganov’s only chance of sur­vival is to flee her home­land. Nermina’s Chance begins in 1992 Bosnia at the out­set of the Ser­bian cam­paign of geno­cide and rape, fol­low­ing the dis­so­lu­tion of Yugoslavia.

Today, once again, Bosnia faces an esca­lat­ing cri­sis of geno­cide denial, nation­al­ism, and renewed threats of eth­nic cleans­ing — all ter­ri­bly famil­iar to the Jew­ish diaspora.

At its heart, Nermina’s Chance plumbs the depths of a mother’s ardent love for her daugh­ter. The nov­el explores the inevitable inher­i­tance of trau­ma, but it also pro­vides glimpses of hope as Ner­mi­na strug­gles to over­come pro­found loss and Ati­ka forges her independence.

A work of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, Nermina’s Chance reveals inher­ent inter­sec­tions between the Bosni­aks (Bosn­ian Mus­lims) and the Jew­ish dias­po­ra; both have expe­ri­enced pro­found inter­gen­er­a­tional trau­ma and face ongo­ing discrimination.

This nov­el pro­vides an ide­al start­ing point for a dia­logue focus­ing on refugees/​survivors still suf­fer­ing the effects of war and displacement.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Dina Greenberg

  1. In these chap­ters, which of the char­ac­ters do you most iden­ti­fy with? Can you say why you think you feel this way?

  2. Who do you feel most com­pas­sion for? Again, why?

  3. Are there par­tic­u­lar moments in these chap­ters that you relate to more than oth­ers? How so?

  4. Did you find your­self angry with Ner­mi­na at any point? When? What about Atika?

  5. Ner­mi­na came to the Unit­ed States as a refugee. She car­ried with her unfath­omable grief. This is true for a large seg­ment of the Jew­ish Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. Even if our own fam­i­lies escaped direct expe­ri­ence of the Holo­caust, we car­ry the col­lec­tive grief of those who did.

  6. If you feel com­fort­able doing so, can you share any fam­i­ly sto­ries relat­ed to the Holo­caust; anti- Semi­tism; feel­ing oth­ered” in the pri­vate or pub­lic spheres of your life here in the U.S.?

  7. Have you ever shared these sto­ries before? If the answer is no, what has com­pelled you to share now?