Sean Chandler ’08 publishes “The Notice”
February 16, 2012 By Cindy Long
young girl's struggles during Bosnia’s brutal conflict. He was
partly inspired by stories told by his fianceé, Nina Marijanovic
“The Notice” was published for Kindle in January and has
already received a number of positive reader reviews on
Amazon. One called the novel “an excellent and moving account.”
Throughout his life, Sean Chandler ’08 has experienced a strange gravitational pull toward the Balkans.
In 2001, Chandler’s family hosted an exchange student from Croatia. As a teenager, his coaches at Louisville's United 1996 Futbol Club were Bosnian Muslims who came over during the war that befell their country in the early 1990s. His fiancée is Nina Marijanovic ’10, whose family emigrated from Bosnia to the United States after having survived the worst of the Bosnian War.
With these forces in his orbit, combined with Sean's scholarly interest in the region, it seems he was destined to write “The Notice,” a novel about a young girl's struggles during Bosnia’s brutal conflict.
“After graduating from Centre and completing my master's [in diplomacy and international commerce] at the University of Kentucky, I had about eight months to kill before I went to teach in South Korea for a year, ” Chandler explains. “So I ordered any cheap books I could find about the Bosnian War, the history of the region and the impact of the violence on the millions of refugees the war created. I used these books — books defending or condemning all three sides involved in the conflict — to try to create the most fair portrayal of the war that I could without ever having stepped foot in Bosnia.”
The story centers around young Violeta, a Bosnian Serb who spends much of her time alone. Her views on the upheaval in her country and her town are guided by witnessing the murder of a Muslim woman, and the conflicting teachings of the murdered woman's wise spirit and her racist best friend.
This may lead readers to wonder if Violeta's character is based on one of those aforementioned forces, namely fiancée Marijanovic.
“Violeta is a composite of characters I've always admired from movies I enjoy,” Chandler says. “It was important to me that she be more relatable to American audiences than potential Balkan readers because the point of my book is to break down the war in terms that American audiences unfamiliar with the war would find interesting and enjoy. Incidentally, after I had written most of the book, Nina revealed to me that ‘Violeta’ is a popular brand of toilet paper in Bosnia, but I decided to keep the name because it felt genuine.
“‘The Notice’ actually came into being after Nina told me about a dream she used to have as a little girl,” Chandler continues. “In the dream, she saw herself tearing down a Muslim obituary — called ‘notices’ there — from a public wall in the center of her town. Keep in mind, she is like five years old in the dream so this isn’t an action that Nina endorses. When she turned around, there was an elderly Muslim woman there who slapped her on the wrist and put the obituary back where it belonged. I just found something about that to be extremely powerful, and the more I thought about it, the more I was able to construct a fictional narrative based on that scene.”
Marijanovic has talked to Chandler about Bosnia since they first met.
“Nina and I met my senior year at Centre and I think things kind of clicked for us because, even on our very first date at The Hub, I wanted to hear her stories from Bosnia,” Chandler says. “Those were our icebreakers. From there, of course, we found other common interests, but our relationship literally began with war stories over a cup of coffee.”
“The Notice,” published for Kindle in January, has already received a number of positive reader reviews on Amazon.com: “An excellent and moving account everyone should read”; “‘The Notice’ gives a good history lesson without reading like a history lesson”; “As someone who lived through the tragedy of this modern war, the novel captures, with great clarity, the not-knowing and the uncertainty that plagued everyone.”
Sean is an instructor and representative for Kaplan Test Prep and a part-time tutor for The Lexington School in Lexington, Ky.
“I try to make time for my new book, ‘Naked in Korea,’ a few days week and I’m already about halfway done, ” he says. “After writing about some pretty violent and horrible events in ‘The Notice,’ I wanted to pull a 180 and write a book featuring some of my funnier stories from South Korea, where incidentally I spent copious amounts of time unclothed around an insane number of Asians. It’s a long story. Obviously the book gets into it.”
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Centre College, founded in 1819 and chosen to host its second Vice Presidential Debate in 2012, is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. Centre is also ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News for its study abroad program. For more, click here.