Then They Started Shooting


352 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $19.95
ISBN: 9781934137666


ISBN: 9781934137673

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Then They Started Shooting upends the traditional discourse on the victims of war by continuing the narrative long after the violence has ended. The stories in this book are eloquently and poignantly recounted, and offer a vital, complex portrait of what the long road to peace looks like.”

Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air

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“Beautifully illustrates the way in which people (in this case children) actively engage with the experience of war . . . Highly original.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Out of the horror of human cruelty in the Bosnian war comes a bright note.”

Foreign Affairs

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“Careful, sensitive . . .  a deeply intimate look into the emotional makeup of children of war.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Absorbing . . . offers new insights into Bosnian Serb–Muslim relations through the eyes of children.”

Publishers Weekly

“Thought-provoking and readable.”


Library Journal

“Psychiatrist Lynne Jones, working in Bosnia’s Goražde in 1996, discovered a striking puzzle: most children exposed to the extreme trauma of bombing, rape, or ‘ethnic cleansing’ were emotional, but not ‘mentally ill.’ Written with an engaging style by a caring doctor with unique experience in setting up clinics in conflict zones, Jones describes children in this Muslim town, detailing how their interpretation of trauma protected them or rendered them vulnerable. Careful to be balanced, she also listened to the Serbian children in the neighboring town, and revisited these children on both sides of the conflict years later. This remarkable book not only contributes to social history—including our understanding of the genocide in Srebrenica—but also to psychiatry. Her astonishing work challenges the medical model in understanding human responses to cruelty.”

Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, Cambridge University, and author of The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty

“Profound . . . Rarely do we get the opportunity to delve into the thoughts of the young caught up in such a tragedy—and meet them not just once in their lives but again years later. This is a moving, well written and above all, deeply disturbing book.”

Tim Judah, Europe correspondent for Bloomberg World View, Balkans correspondent for The Economist, and author of The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia

“Part narrative, part analysis, part thoughtful reflection, this book belongs among the classic accounts of children and war.”

Jennifer Leaning, M.D., S.M.H., Harvard School of Public Health

“Lynne Jones brings to the extreme situation she describes a truly unique combination of hands-on communally oriented psychiatric help; sensitive research on the impact of war and upheaval on children; and an astute sense of the interplay of political policies and psychological behavior. . . . The book not only deepens our understanding of what happened in the former Yugoslavia but contributes greatly to our more general grasp of the consequences of death, loss, and dislocation, and the stubborn human persistence in the face of them.”

Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide and Witness to an Extreme Century

“One of the most illuminating books to have emerged out of the embers of the Bosnian war. Few outsiders have acquired such an inside knowledge of the thoughts and feelings of ordinary Bosnians, on both sides of the wartime divide.”

Noel Malcolm, author of Bosnia: A Short History and Chairman of the Bosnian Institute in London

“Human rights investigations tend to produce snapshots at the moment of abuse. Rarely do we have occasion to look at the aftermath. Lynne Jones adds the dimension of time. With remarkable insight and sensitivity, she follows a group of young Bosnians from both sides of the Serb-Muslim conflict as they grow up. We see how they try to cope with, comprehend, and transcend the horrors that their elders have visited upon their communities. Their successes and failures deepen our understanding of human resilience and how people rebuild their lives from tragic circumstances.”

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

“Lynne Jones is an internationally-known expert on the effects of war on children. Her description of the legacy of the savage war in Bosnia is a shattering but necessary read. . . . This book should be in the knapsack of every international administrator.”

Brendan Simms, author of Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy

Imagine you are nine years old. Your best friend’s father is arrested, half your classmates disappear from school, and someone burns down the house across the road. Imagine you are ten years old and have to cross a snow-covered mountain range at night in order to escape the soldiers who are trying to kill you. How would you deal with these memories five, ten, or twenty years later once you are an adult?

Jones, a relief worker and child psychiatrist, interviewed over forty Serb and Muslim children who came of age during the Bosnian War and now returns, twenty years after the war began, to discover the adults they have become. A must-read for anyone interested in human rights, children’s issues, and the psychological fallout from war, this engaging book addresses the continuing debate about PTSD, the roots of ethnic identity and nationalism, the sources of global conflict, the best paths toward peacemaking and reconciliation, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Excerpt from Then They Started Shooting

Meaning matters. Psychological trauma cannot be looked at as a mechanical event, equivalent to bullet hitting bone, where caliber, velocity, and bone strength can predict the amount of damage. Children are not passive recipients of experience. They are actively engaged in making sense of their environment, and acting to change it, from an early age. They gather meanings from what is around them, first from their parents or caretakers and then from the world beyond—friends, school, community—as well as from their own previous experiences. War touches every aspect of children’s social world, including their history and values. The changes in sense of identity, feelings of trust and security, and connection to others that I found in the Bosnian children may have a profound impact on well-being. They may not manifest themselves as “symptoms” that can be counted, but rather as “ways of living” that have to be observed and discussed with the children themselves.

Lynne Jones discusses war and PTSD in Aeon magazine and talks to Kirkus Reviews about Then They Started Shooting.

Listen to a four-part BBC Outlook field report from Lynne Jones, conducted during her 2012 return trip to the Balkans, where she was researching the new edition of Then They Started Shooting. Episode 1. Episode 2. Episode 3. Episode 4.