Nadja Halilbegovich - Author

Nadja Halilbegovich

Nadja was born on July 29, 1979. She was twelve when the war broke out in her native country Bosnia. Throughout the next three and a half years, she and all the citizens of the capital Sarajevo suffered from continuous shelling and the deprivation of basic needs. In 1992, Nadja was wounded by a bombshell. She still has seven pieces of shrapnel in her legs. During the war, Nadja began sharing her poetry and diary entries on the National Radio. Soon, she had her own radio show called “The Music Box.” In 1993, four of her poems were featured in the book Mom, I Don't Want to Go to the Basement. A year later, at 14, Nadja's diary Sarajevo Childhood Wounded by War was printed in Bosnia. She became known as the Bosnian Anne Frank, and the National Dutch Television created a documentary about her life.

In late 1995, Nadja escaped the war and came to live with a host family in the United States. She began learning English and finished three grades of high school in two years. In the summer of 1995, the sequel to her diary entitled Dreamer's Insomnia was printed in Bosnia. In 1997, Nadja enrolled in Butler University majoring in Vocal Performance and Theater. She continued to speak and share her experiences around the world at events such as the Global Young Leaders Conference, the State of the World Forum and many others. She was recognized by her university with the first ever “Woman of Distinction Award.” In 1999, she was featured in the book Courage to Give by Jackie Waldman. In 2000, she was in Michael Collopy's Architects of Peace along with the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. Later the same year, her message was brought to American teenagers with her feature in Teen People Magazine. Upon graduating in 2002, she embarked on a nine-month speaking tour with the non-profit organization Free the Children, promoting peace and tolerance to over 70,000 students across 35 states and four Canadian provinces. Nadja currently lives in Canada and her first North American publication entitled My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary was published in February 2006 by Kids Can Press. Her book has been awarded the 2006 Best Book Award under Social Studies by the Society of School Librarians International as well as nominated for the Norma Fleck Award and the Golden Oak Award. A French translation was released in 2007.

Where were you born?
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

What is your birthday?
July 29, 1979.

Where do you currently live?
Toronto, Ontario.

When did you start writing?
I started writing at 12.

What is your favorite book?
Night by Elie Wiesel.

Do you have any pets?
Yes, a dog named Tina.

What is your favorite movie?
Schindler's List.

What are your hobbies?
Running, hiking, singing, playing guitar and reading.

What was your schooling or training?
I have a Bachelor's Degree in Music and Theater.

How did you get involved in children's books?
I started writing my war diary when I was 12. It was first printed when I was 14.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
When I was 14, I had my first book reading. All my dear friends and family came despite the bombings and this was very inspiring and special to me.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a rock star, also an opera star like Maria Calas or an actress like Audrey Hepburn.

Where do you currently work?
I teach music privately.

What was the weirdest or most interesting job you have ever had?
The most interesting job for me was my nine-month speaking tour across the United States and Canada. I traveled in a big, green van with three other young speakers and we spoke at over 140 schools, reaching students with our stories of experiencing war, traveling to poor countries and experiencing racism and intolerance. We inspired them to become peacemakers in their own schools and communities, and to reach out to people who are different than themselves and embrace them.

My Childhood Under Fire

2007 - Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Short-listed
2007 - Golden Oak Award, Ontario Library Association, Short-listed
2007 - Books for the Teen Age List, New York Public Library, Winner
2007 - Independent Publisher Book Award - Bronze Medal, Winner
2006 - Norma Fleck Award, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Short-listed
2006 - International Book Award, The Society of School Librarians International, Winner