A fascinating account of cross-cultural insight that will interest memoir, history and metaphysical enthusiasts.


A detailed exploration of a personal journey through varying cultures and countries.

As an 80-year-old Australian born in Malaysia to Sri Lankan parents, Ratnam has a rare view of spiritual destiny, colonial politics and cultural identity. This memoir traces his childhood in Japanese-occupied Malaysia to his move to Australia and two marriages to Australian women, creating a diverse array of cross-cultural situations. From the arrogance of British colonials disparaging the Asian cultures in ’40s-era Malaysia, to the fight for immigrant equality in present-day Australia, the author examines racial and cultural divisions. He also speculates on the role that destiny places on life’s journey. As the eldest and only son in his family, Ratnam was pushed to excel, skipping grades and entering an Australian college at an early age. Immature and unprepared to do laboratory work–which had not been taught in Japanese-occupied Malaysia–he failed his courses, bringing decades of shame on himself and his family. Still, his difficult time in Australia enabled the author to write three books related to migrant settlement and sociological issues, fulfilling his destiny of bridging Eastern and Western cultures. Ratnam writes with convincing authority, and his details of Malaysian and Australian society reveal a sharp eye for cultural nuances. He writes, for example, that the Australian tendency of shortening names was regarded as a depraved habit by Asian immigrants, since personal names reflected religious affirmations and tribal beliefs that held great significance. Because the author explicates portions of his life several times, his writing can be repetitive. Still, his optimism about multicultural understanding will sustain the reader’s interest.

A fascinating account of cross-cultural insight that will interest memoir, history and metaphysical enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-14269-1327-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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