Now an expatriate, the author chronicles her fight for personal and political independence in a repressive nation almost completely sealed off from the rest of the world.
Born in 1950 to a family with a history of battling for political independence against colonialism, Tin attended university and did what she could to carry on the family tradition, contending with Burmese military repression rather than the British. At age 49, she decided it was time to expose the junta’s brutality from a safer place and moved to the United States. She studied at the University of California with Wakeman (Journalism/Berkeley), director of the university’s Asia Pacific Project. This text, written by Wakeman but presented as Tin’s first-person narrative, relates her story up to the time of her departure from Burma. Accounts of personal and societal horrors alternate with vignettes of bravery, but Tin never manages adequately to explain how an entire population numbering in the millions has allowed relatively few oppressors to remain in power decade after decade. Once prosperous and rich in natural resources, Burma (rechristened Myanmar by the junta in 1989) has become one of the world’s most impoverished nations. Tin provides examples of daily deprivations and government repression. The detailed narrative provides a rich education about Burmese life. For those without a prior knowledge of Burmese society, however, the specifics are sometimes overwhelming. Freedom to speak in the United States has not brought Tin unalloyed happiness; she bemoans being labeled a traitor by the government of her homeland and understandably misses the family members she left behind.
Educational but relentlessly depressing.