Treading Water at the Shark Café: A Memoir of the Yugoslav Wars

Lyndon Back

Heartbreak and hope, a Quaker mom's mission of peace in war-torn Yugoslavia.

Treading Water at the Shark Café is an American Quaker woman’s extraordinary journey of witness and discovery from her suburban Philadelphia home to the war zones of the former Yugoslavia. Set against a background of violence, her story focuses on young people—often forgotten in times of war—who lived outside the spotlight.

Like the Freedom Riders and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the United States, the student activists in the former Yugoslavia envisioned a better world, taking incredible risks to make their dreams come true. Optimism, energy, and imagination conjure new possibilities, even in the midst of chaos. Told with honesty and deep conviction, this memoir will resonate with a growing audience of readers who are tired of political warmongering and share a longing for effective nonviolent alternatives.

  • Our Price: $17.95 + $3 S&H within continental US
  • ISBN: 978-1-941799-57-4
  • e-book ISBN: 978-1-941799-58-1
  • Publication Date: July 3, 2018
  • 248 pages – 5.5 in. x 8.5 in. matte paperback
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“Luckily for us, Back had acquired the habit of journaling, and as a result we have this careful record and narrative of a self‐driven peacemaker bravely traversing territories—Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vojvodina, Republika Srpska, and Kosovo—that appeared in the news in nightmarish headlines. . . . What she experienced was a terrain filled with chilling encounters with the official world, alternating with heartwarming respites in intimate family circles.

“Lyndon Back’s Treading Water at the Shark Café is an engaging, exquisitely documented, and touching account of a deeply personal journey.”

—Robert Dockhorn, Friends Journal

Treading Water in the Shark Café is a refreshingly candid and exquisitely written odyssey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening. This redemptive narrative offers pacifists solace for the future amidst global chaos and violence. An intensely human story, replete with deep ethical and spiritual questioning . . . a must read for anyone considering work as a peace activist or humanitarian.”

—Dr. Susan Armstrong-Reid, Department of History, University of Guelph

“For all of us living in polarized situations, Lyn Back models how to navigate in ways that open to others, are self-respecting, and successful in making a difference. Her courage under fire kept me riveted.”

—George Lakey, Author, How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning

Treading Water at the Shark Café is a fascinating glimpse into the heart and mind of a Quaker woman who commits herself to helping the young people of the war-torn former Yugoslavia through non-violent strategies. It is a rich cultural experience for the reader.

“She tells the story with honesty and clarity, revealing her deep convictions and passion for her work as a volunteer for Balkan Peace Team. Through vivid sensory details, the setting and her characters come alive on the page. The suspense, building tension, and conflict kept me turning the pages. As a reader, I admire her drive and courage in traveling alone to a dangerous part of the world and fulfilling her mission of create educational opportunities for the young people of the country.

“This inspirational memoir would be a valuable resource for anyone who is interested in peace, conflict resolution and non-violence.”

—Kathleen Pooler, Author, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse

“Lyn Back’s book, Treading Water at the Shark Café, is a very personal journey of conviction to the cause of peace. As I read Back’s account of her volunteer work in Yugoslavia, I kept reflecting on the life of Viola Liuzzo, a Detroit homemaker who was drawn by her deep convictions to go to Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. Back speaks very honestly and humbly about the driving forces that propel a middle-aged mother to leave her home and job in order to do something for the greater good. During her time in Yugoslavia, Back finds inspiration from those people caught in the midst of conflict, especially the young people with whom she collaborates. This book would be a resource to faculty and students interested in peace studies, conflict resolution, and non-violence.”

—Dr. Linda M. Johnston, Executive Director and Professor at the Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics, and Character, Kennesaw State University

“Her story is a lesson about the chaos that ensues when countries are ethnically and ideologically divided. . . . You don't need to be a scholar or activist to learn from and enjoy this memoir. Back will lead you to see how she found her calling. . . . Influenced by the tenets of the American Friends Service Committee, peace is given a chance.”

—Martha Meacham, Story Circle Book Reviews

About the Author

Lyndon Back graduated from State University of New York at Oneonta in 1968. She then moved with her husband and three children to Vicenza, Italy, where she taught English as a Second Language. She has a CELTA/TESOL certificate from the School of International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. In 1979, Lyn received a master’s in public administration from State University of New York at Albany. Her competency in Serbo-Croatian was earned at the Akbukum Language School in Novi Sad, Serbia.

In 1998, Lyn left her job as director of planned giving at the American Friends Service Committee to volunteer with the Balkan Peace Teams in Belgrade, Serbia, and Prishtina, Kosovo. She was one of only a few American women to live and work in the former Yugoslavia before, during, and after the NATO bombing. Lyn lives in suburban Philadelphia. Her experiences in the Balkans continue to influence her writing. Her poems, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals. Lyn is a member of Old Haverford Monthly Meeting (Quakers).