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12ratner  /// "In the Shadow of the Banyan" by Vaddey Ratner ///   My god. This book is heart-breaking and absolutely beautiful. Raami is a seven year old Cambodian princess whose world is thrown into chaos in April of 1975. She and her family are just preparing to celebrate the Khmer new year when suddenly the city is over run with the communist group, Khmer Rouge. Everyone is forced out their homes and into years of uncertainty. Raami relates the experiences she’s having back to the poetry and myths her father has been sharing with her for years. This is the story of how a little girl survived a “revolution” and lived under the opressive eye of the “Organization.”
I love most of Raami’s family, except for Tata who seemed completely dense after the Khmer Rouge took over. The Organization systematically wiped out everyone who had held any kind of authority, who could read, who was educated. People were forced into labor camps and separated from their families. They were denied their religion and so denied the ceremonial comforts when loved ones died. The dead were buried with no grave.
Raami says over and over how she could never be the poet that her father is, but the entire story reads like a beautiful combination of poetry and prose. The author paints these horrors in beautiful brush strokes of language. It is a true sign of talent to write about something so horrible in such a beautiful way that even as your crying you can’t stop reading. I cried many times, but I never flinched. With the amount of death in this book, it could have read like a script for a slasher film. Thank goodness the author recognized that the loss of each character was just as heart breaking without descriptions of the gore. Some of them were even more awful because we never know exactly what happened to them.
The coolest part about this book is that it was written by a Cambodian princess who survived the uprising and downfall of the Khmer Rouge. It’s not a memoir though. She says that she was too young to remember the tragic events accurately and most of her family is gone so she can’t ask them to help her remember. I can definitely say that I will probably read this again.

5 out of 5 quills. Absolutely amazing. It was so good I’m getting my mom to read it.

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