Miss BurmaCharmaine Craig
15 March 2018
Published by Grove Press
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.
Like many of the best books, Miss Burma feels rooted in its time and place, while also laying bare timeless questions of loyalty, infidelity, patriotism, and identity - not to mention the globally perpetuated unfair treatment of women.
Miss Burma serves as a much needed recalibration of history, one that redresses the narrative imbalance by placing other ethnic, non-Burmese points of view at the center of its story... By resurrecting voices that are seldom heard on a wider stage, Craig's novel... brings one of Burma's many lost histories to vivid life.
New York Times Book Review
Charmaine Craig wields powerful and vivid prose to illuminate a country and a family trapped not only by war and revolution, but also by desire and loss. Both epic and intimate, Miss Burma is a compelling and disturbing trip through Burmese history and politics.Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of THE SYMPATHIZER
A riveting portrayal of human resourcefulness and heroism, and of their inadequacy before the great cataclysms of history. This engrossing novel movingly affirms - in its characters, but also in the elegance and fineness of its craft - the perseverance of dignity in the face of our helplessness.Garth Greenwell, author of WHAT BELONGS TO YOU
Miss Burma is a book which resonates with meaning, of how we are all actors in our histories and the histories of our nations, it disrupts our settled sense that the past is the past, and shows how it reaches forward to touch the future. It is a powerful, moving and important novel.Aminatta Forna, author of THE HIRED MAN
Rich and layered, a complex weaving of national and personal trauma . . . Craig has written a captivating second novel that skillfully moves from moments of quiet intimacy and introspection to passages portraying the swift evolution of political events as multiple groups and nations vie for control of Burma's future. Mesmerizing and haunting.
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
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 language and the images unfold with grace, horror, and intimacy.