Myanmar Bookshelf

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The magnetic personality and personal courage of Aung San Suu Kyi are inseparable from the story of modern Myanmar.

The daughter of an independence hero, she grew up in Delhi (where her mother was the Burmese ambassador), studied at Oxford and London universities, worked at the United Nations in New York, and married a British historian of Bhutanese and Tibetan culture. On her return to Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi became the leader of the pro-democracy movement, suffered extended house arrest, was the subject of at least one assassination attempt, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and won two landslide election victories, in 1990 and 2015.

Peter Popham’s biography of her, "The Lady and the Peacock," is a passionate and readable account of her extraordinary life to date. Its only drawback is that it was first published in 2012 and therefore does not deal with the recent political events that have potentially transformed Myanmar’s future. For Aung San Suu Kyi’s own account of her tumultuous existence, I strongly recommend her collection of essays, "Freedom from Fear." In addition, her "Letters from Burma" presents a vivid portrait of her beloved country and its long-suffering inhabitants.

While I was in the northern Kachin State, I was fascinated to read "Life in the Valley of Death," by Alan Rabinowitz. A native New Yorker who has been referred to as the “Indiana Jones of Wildlife Protection,” Rabinowitz is a former executive director of the science and exploration division at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Today he is co-founder and CEO of Panthera, an organization dedicated to the preservation of big-cat species. His book is an account of the time he spent in Myanmar’s remote Hukaung Valley, endeavoring to establish the world’s largest tiger reserve.

"The Lady and the Peacock" by Peter Popham - © The Experiment LLC
<i>Letters from Burma</i> by Aung San Suu Kyi - © Penguin Random House
"Life in the Valley of Death" by Alan Rabinowitz - © Honi Werner & Steve Winter
"Freedom from Fear" by Aung San Suu Kyi - © Penguin Random House
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