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Category Archive for 'Cambodia'

In this autobiographical novel, author Vaddey Ratner has accomplished what every novelist hopes for—she has created a main character and family so vibrant that every reader will truly feel “replanted” and rooted in a different place – Cambodia – where they then share every aspect of these characters’ lives and hopes for the future. Telling the story is Raami, an engaging seven-year-old child of a large and loving Phnom Penh family, which also includes her nanny, cook, and beloved gardener. Together they inhabit a lush, lovely, and endlessly fascinating natural world which offers constant visual surprises and inspires the stories, tales, and poems Raami relates here. Many of these poems and stories have been written by her father, a man she adores, and they infuse her whole life with the magic and beauty of words, offering hope and inspiration even through the atrocities she eventually witnesses when the Khmer Rouge take over the country. Directed by revolutionary officers and moved from village to village at the whim of the Khmer, the family performs menial labor as they try to hide their background, dealing with starvation, disease, exhaustion, killings. It is her memory of her father’s stories which keep her sane. Beautifully written, totally involving, and eventually uplifting.

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Whether she is “Walking With the Great Apes: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Birute Galdikas,” canoeing the Sundarbans for tigers (Spell of the Tiger: The Man-Eaters of Sundarbans), or, in this case, exploring Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos seeking the golden moon bear, Sy Montgomery single-mindedly seeks out rare animals, refusing to limit her searches to “safe” areas. Facing land-mines in Cambodia, warring tribes on the Thai border with Myanmar (Burma), poachers in Laos, and a poverty-stricken Laotian society in which people eat virtually all insect and animal life, Montgomery attempts to track down a golden bear with Mickey-Mouse-type ears and a black mane, thought to be a variety of moon bear, and unlike any other bear known to science, possibly “the scientific finding of a lifetime.”

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