Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratter

 It might be hard to wrap one's mind around the concept of genocide, but it sure is important to do so. After all, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. The massive purge that occurred during a very short window of time - between 1975 and 1979, just after the Cambodian Civil War - had all the signs of a genocide: millions were killed because they looked different or didn't conform to predetermined ideas of what the "ideal Cambodian" should be like. Seven-year-old Raami Ayuravann, the narrator of the moving novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan, belongs to the royal class and is living her life in relative luxury in Phnom Penh, when the Khmer Rouge captures the city in 1975.

Raami is forced to dislocate to the countryside along with her family, and under extreme conditions, the family fights to survive together. Forcing everyone to conform to an agrarian lifestyle, the Khmer Rouge displaces millions of Cambodians like Raami's family, moving them to the countryside and having everyone perform hard labor for the most meager of rations. As we follow the novel's narrative, we slowly find out who will eventually remain safe in the "shadow of the banyan tree."

The rest of the review can be found here.

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