Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cambodia's Tragic Truth

Told through fiction.
Vaddey Ratner was 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge swept into power in 1975, claiming the lives of more than 1 million Cambodians, including most of her family. But while her first book, “In the Shadow of the Banyan,” is rooted in these events, it’s no memoir.

It instead uses fiction, telling the story of a precocious 7-year-old named Raami who begins her tale in a gated Phnom Penh estate before revolution arrives. “My first and foremost goal was always to honor my family with a work of art,” said Ms. Ratner, who fled Cambodia with her mother to the U.S. in 1981. “Fiction allowed me to step out from my own solipsistic concerns and limited memory and imagine the ordeals and fears of others more fully.”

Her family, composed of Phnom Penh intellectuals descended from a branch of the Cambodian royal lineage, was an early target of the anti-bourgeois “purges” and re-education programs that eventually subsumed the country. (Read entire post.)

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