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Miss Burma
Cover of Miss Burma
Miss Burma
LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction

After attending school in Calcutta, Benny settles in Rangoon, then part of the British Empire, and falls in love with Khin, a woman who is part of a long-persecuted ethnic minority group, the Karen. World War II comes to Southeast Asia, and Benny and Khin must go into hiding in the eastern part of the country during the Japanese Occupation, beginning a journey that will lead them to change the country's history.

After the war, the British authorities make a deal with the Burman nationalists, led by Aung San, whose party gains control of the country. When Aung San is assassinated, his successor ignores the pleas for self-government of the Karen people and other ethnic groups, and in doing so sets off what will become the longest-running civil war in recorded history. Benny and Khin's eldest child, Louisa, has a danger-filled, tempestuous childhood and reaches prominence as Burma's first beauty queen soon before the country falls to dictatorship. As Louisa navigates her newfound fame, she is forced to reckon with her family's past, the West's ongoing covert dealings in her country and her own loyalty to the cause of the Karen people.

Based on the story of the author's mother and grandparents, Miss Burma is a captivating portrait of how modern Burma came to be and of the ordinary people swept up in the struggle for self-determination and freedom.

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction

After attending school in Calcutta, Benny settles in Rangoon, then part of the British Empire, and falls in love with Khin, a woman who is part of a long-persecuted ethnic minority group, the Karen. World War II comes to Southeast Asia, and Benny and Khin must go into hiding in the eastern part of the country during the Japanese Occupation, beginning a journey that will lead them to change the country's history.

After the war, the British authorities make a deal with the Burman nationalists, led by Aung San, whose party gains control of the country. When Aung San is assassinated, his successor ignores the pleas for self-government of the Karen people and other ethnic groups, and in doing so sets off what will become the longest-running civil war in recorded history. Benny and Khin's eldest child, Louisa, has a danger-filled, tempestuous childhood and reaches prominence as Burma's first beauty queen soon before the country falls to dictatorship. As Louisa navigates her newfound fame, she is forced to reckon with her family's past, the West's ongoing covert dealings in her country and her own loyalty to the cause of the Karen people.

Based on the story of the author's mother and grandparents, Miss Burma is a captivating portrait of how modern Burma came to be and of the ordinary people swept up in the struggle for self-determination and freedom.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 13, 2017
    It’s 1941 when Khin, a young, pregnant Karen (one of many ethnic groups in Burma), looks up at the sky to see “at least fifty planes flying in formation toward her—toward them all... like nothing she had ever seen, and yet precisely like what she had been preparing to witness all her life.” The Japanese have invaded, the British hold is slipping fast, and the fragmented worlds from which Khin and her Jewish husband, Benny, have come will continue to fracture for decades. This is the moment at which the war stops being a source of indecision about where to go and becomes instead what forces Khin, Benny, and their daughter Louisa onto an “airless train” without a clear destination. The book itself begins much earlier, as Benny, the son of a rabbi in Rangoon’s Jewish quarter, was growing up in the 1920s before seeing Khin and falling instantly in love with her, despite initially sharing almost no common language. Spanning generations and multiple dictators, Craig’s epic novel provides a rich, complex account of Burma and its place within the larger geopolitical theater. The first half of the book is an undeniable success; the language and the images unfold with grace, horror, and intimacy. The second half, however, becomes weighted down by the history of various corrupt generals and the parties they represent, and it loses the spark and the momentum.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2017

    In her epic new novel, Craig (The Good Men) takes readers on a journey through the political history of Burma (today's Myanmar) from 1920s British colonialism to 1960s military rule. Told from the perspective of the Karen minority, who have been enslaved and mistreated for centuries by the Burmese, the author's work is distinctive for its representation of a voice not often documented in history. Craig vividly illustrates the intertwining of the political and the personal through the chance union of Benny, a second-generation Burman citizen of Jewish and Indian descent, to Khin, a Karen native. Benny "becomes" Karen through his burgeoning love for the Karen people and dedication to their cause: fighting for their own nation-state. Ironically, their daughter becomes a symbol of Burmese unity and integration when she wins the Miss Burma beauty pageant. Fans of Jan-Philipp Sendker's The Art of Hearing Heartbeats will find this to be a darker, more nuanced story that parallels marriage, family relations, identity politics, and imperialism. VERDICT Drawing on the experiences of her Burmese/Karen grandparents and mother, Craig has written a meditation on how to attain peace and democracy after repeated betrayals, both in marriage and in the political sphere. Readers with an eye to world history and current events will find this novel riveting. [See Prepub Alert, 12/5/16.]--Suzanne Im, Los Angeles P.L.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Miss Burma
Miss Burma
LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018
Charmaine Craig
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