Monday, 24 August 2009

Little Daughter - Zoya Phan

I have been reading Little Daughter (2009) by Zoya Phan. It is her memoir of growing up and surviving as a Karen refugee in Burma, a country overrun by civil war and fuelled by government corruption and arms.

There's something about the writing style of this memoir which made it hard to concentrate on the events unfolding. I found it difficult to come away with a sense of time and pace, and it was only towards the end of the book that I could truly comprehend that all this was happening in the 1980s and 1990s, rather than seemingly decades ago. It is an epic story to tell, yet the narrative does not do it justice. It's hard to even know where to begin in describing Zoya Phan's life, escaping into the jungle while her home town was under attack, seeking asylum in refugee camps, and watching hope appear and disappear in rapid succession. I won't give away any more of the story, but suffice to say that Zoya and her siblings have gone on to fight the Burmese regime on an international scale.

The war, poverty, and devastation in Burma is still happening today; a few weeks ago, I became aware of the story of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years. An American man swam uninvited across the lake to her house, where she is not allowed visitors or any communication with the outside world, causing her to breach her house arrest conditions and resulting in her being sentenced to three years' imprisonment with hard labour. The sentence has now been commuted to a further 18 months' house arrest, almost 20 years since she was first sentenced.

The Phan family (Zoya, her sister, and two brothers) have established the Phan Foundation with aims to alleviate poverty, provide education, promote human rights and to protect Karen culture for the Karen people of Burma.


~JarieLyn~ said...


Anonymous said...

i am a big fan of aung san suu kyi. and i agree with you about the cafes of wellington! love that windy city :)