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In the Shadow of the Banyan

In the Shadow of the Banyan

by Vaddey Ratner

My purpose is to honor the lives lost, and I wanted to do so by endeavoring to transform suffering into art.


Introduction to the Book

"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, as she endures the tragic deaths and violent executions of friends and family members, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood—the magical tales and poems she learned from her father. Whenever Raami comes close to giving up hope, she looks up at the moon and recalls the intricate tales that her father created for her, stories of fortitude and love that instilled the values that will keep her alive.

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