Burmese Lessons Karen Connelly, 2009

Does this non-fiction account with names-changed-to-protect-the-innocent-and-expose-the-guilty merit its accolades? Yes and no. I’m relieved that Connelly’s Touch the Dragon won the GG’s literary award for non-fiction, rather than this personal, sometimes so intimate, account of her coming to maturity and to an acceptance of reality in the cities, refugee camps and small towns embroiled in the struggle for democracy in Burma( Myanmar) and along the Thai-Burma border. But there’s good writing here, at its best when capturing the individuals she meets and the places she visits. You see the journalist/novelist and the poet at work, sometimes at odds. And that tension is often delicious.  Only the love affair—central to the narrative—disappoints somewhat. Why? Because sex often trumps desire in the telling, and the inevitability of the relationship’s failure is obvious throughout. BOOKEND RATING: 7/10.

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