Free by Lea Yipi
At home and school Lea Ypi is taught to believe that “socialism brings freedom”. Even though her family are victims of socialism. However, after Albanian style socialism is overthrown and family secrets necessarily emerge, a new kind of freedom is promised, but the teenage Lea is confused: if we were free then, how can we also be free now? Eventually, Lea, her family and the rest of the Albanian people come to realise that Western style freedom is as indifferent in its own way to the people as the freedom preached by Albania’s old socialist leaders, “My father assumed, like many in his generation, that freedom was lost when other people tell us how to think, what to do, where to go. He soon realised that coercion need not always take such a direct form”. Especially when the World Bank comes calling promising monetary support on one hand and demanding “structural reforms” on the other, resulting in jobs losses but also the ‘free market’ and the flawed financial systems that followed. What price freedom? And the fallout from that? As Lea Ypi, wrote in a recent piece in The Guardian, “Albanians have become the latest victims of an ideological project that exposes minorities to negative stereotyping, xenophobia and racism, and all for the sake of concealing its own political failures.” Political failures that since the nineties have resulted in refugees and migrants seeking both safety and a better life in Western countries that advertise ‘freedom’ like they advertise everything else. But what kind of freedom is it? “My world is as far from freedom as the one my parents tried to escape.” Coming of age memoir, family memoir, political memoir, Lea Ypi’s Free is a lapel grabber that doesn’t let you go until the final page. My favourite non-fiction book of the year.
Free – Lea Ypi - publ. Penguin - £9.99