Sunday, January 19, 2014

Our January Author: Vaddey Ratner

This month we are reading Vaddey Ratner's novel of hope and survival during the Cambodian genocide, In the Shadow of the Banyan. Visit Ratner's website to learn more about her, especially the media page, where you can listen to a short speech she gave to the United Nations Association and another she gave at the PEN/Faulkner award ceremony in which she articulates her commitment to human rights and free expression. Bonus points for her reference to Indonesian writer Pramoedya Anata Toer who we enjoyed reading some time ago! Ratner answers questions from a university class studying human rights in ▶this video, but unfortunately, the audio is poor quality. A few other interviews worth a look:

Her voice breaking, she says she, like Raami, feels responsible for the death of her father at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. "So I wrote this book to make him live again, and to make him live forever."
Publisher's Weekly explores her influences, Elie Wiesel's Night and Rights Readers favorite Michael Ondaatje,
I felt a part of the spirit of those who died. I know some people see only death in that experience, but as a child I saw the desire to live. I wanted to capture that. Wiesel’s Night gave me a language for a story that lived in me that I hadn't yet learned to articulate.”
Many interesting insights on the creative process from The Writer,
To make it personal, to take it beyond the place I loved as a child and make it also a place my reader would love and care about, I needed to articulate it in the minutiae of a child’s daily connection to the place, a connection cultivated with little preconceived notion or judgment of the surroundings.
To bring the human rights discussion around to present-day Cambodia, please visit Amnesty International's Cambodia page where you can learn more about the crackdown by security forces on protesters resulting in at least four deaths earlier this month. Witness has citizen video of this serious incident. Be on the lookout for actions to follow!
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