|Image from barnesandnoble.com|
|Image from nytimes.com|
I don't usually include pictures of the authors when I write about books, but I was taken with this woman's beauty and wanted her lovely image on my blog. I would like to look just like her when I grow up.
In the Shadow of the Banyan is a novel, but it is Vaddey Ratner's story. It is told from the point of view of a seven-year-old girl whose family is uprooted by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1975.
I was woefully ignorant of the atrocities associated with the Khmer Rouge. Did we not learn about it in high school as a part of current events? (Damn, I hate saying that.) Or was I just not paying attention? Could it be that I was so immersed in myself that I was completely unaware that millions were dying on the other side of the world? Don't answer that.
This story is one of love, loss, unimaginable horror, and the resilience of the human spirit. Mostly it is about survival. It is beautifully written, and it is hard to believe that the author came to the United States at the age of 11 and knew no English. She not only learned the language, she taught herself the craft of writing, and her use of words is positively poetic.
I love books like this one because they teach me in addition to entertaining me. I learned a great deal about the Cambodian culture and about the strength of a mother when it comes to protecting and taking care of her children. I feel so much smarter.
Then I wonder why I can't write that well, when I've been speaking the language all my life, and I feel dumb all over again.