Author Earns Her Stripes

You can’t go anywhere these days without running into someone reading The Tiger’s Wife. The author’s story is fairly amazing, however.

Until she was 7, Ms. Obreht lived in Belgrade with her mother; her grandfather, who was a Roman Catholic from Slovenia; and her grandmother, a Muslim from Bosnia. Her father was never in the picture, she said. In 1992, with civil war breaking out in the former Yugoslavia, the family moved first to Cyprus and then to Cairo, where Ms. Obreht, who already knew a little English from watching bootleg copies of Disney movies, went to English schools.

In 1997, when the war had ended, Ms. Obreht’s grandparents moved back to their Belgrade apartment, but she and her mother emigrated to the United States, living outside Atlanta for a while before finally settling in Palo Alto, Calif. Ms. Obreht graduated from the University of Southern California and then got an M.F.A. at Cornell, where she began writing what would become “The Tiger’s Wife.”

Starting in Cyprus, she spent most of her spare time reading and writing, “to the point,” she said, “of not being socialized properly.” These days she is cheerful and gregarious, and recalled her childhood as a mostly happy one, but added: “I think I’m just starting to feel some of the repercussions. Moving every three or four years that way has made it extremely easy for me to leave people behind. I’m finding that when you get older and start to care about friends and mentors, you have to make an effort to stay connected.”

Really didn’t have much interest in The Tiger’s Wife until reading this fascinating profile of Téa Obreht, who is just 25.


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