In the Shadow of the Banyan
For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood— the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.
Transforming Tragedy into Art
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War entered my childhood world not with the blasts of rockets and bombs but with my father’s footsteps as he walked through the hallway, passing my bedroom toward his. I heard the door open and shut with a soft click. I slid off my bed, careful not to wake Radana in her crib, and snuck out of my room. I pressed my ear to the door and listened.
“Are you all right?” Mama sounded concerned.
Each day before dawn, Papa would go out for a solitary stroll, and returning an hour or so later, he would bring back with him the sights and sounds of the city, from which would emerge the poems he read aloud... see more
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Reading Group Guide
“To keep you is no gain, to kill you is no loss.” For seven-year-old Raami, the collapse of her childhood world begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the upheaval that has overwhelmed the streets of Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. It is April 1975, and the civil war between the U.S.-backed government and the Khmer Rouge insurgency has reached its climax. As Raami plays in the magical world of her family’s estate, she is intrigued by the adults’ hushed exchanges that pit hopes for the long-awaited peace against fears that this might be the end of the life they know, a life protected and cushioned by their royal lineage. On the morning of the lunar New Year, a young soldier dressed in the black of the Revolution invades that world of carefully guarded privilege. Within hours, Raami and her family join a mass exodus as the new Khmer Rouge regime evacuates Cambodia’s cities.
Over the next four years, see more