Charmaine Craig '99, author of “Miss Burma,” nominated for National Book Award

Charmaine Craig, author of “Miss Burma,” nominated for National Book Award

Charmaine Craig '99 studied literature at Harvard College, received her MFA from the University of California at Irvine, and serves as a faculty member in the Department of Creative Writing at UC Riverside, where she particularly enjoys teaching literature, the art of the paragraph, and forms of narration. Her first novel, The Good Men  (Riverhead), was a national bestseller translated into six languages. Her second novel, Miss Burma (Grove), is based on the lives of her mother and grandparents, all born in Burma. Formerly an actor in film and television, she grew up in Los Angeles, where she now resides with her husband, author Andrew Winer, and their daughters.

Miss Burma

It is 1939, and Benny, a young Jewish officer, is working for the British Customs Service in Burma.  One day during his shift at the docks, he catches sight of a young woman with hair down to her ankles, standing at the end of a jetty. This is Khin, who belongs to Burma’s Karen ethnic minority group, which for centuries has been persecuted by the Burman majority. She and Benny soon marry, but when World War II comes to Asia, and Rangoon finds itself under threat of the Japanese occupation, the young couple and their baby daughter Louisa are forced to take shelter among Khin’s Karen countrymen in the eastern part of Burma.  After the war, the British Empire strikes an independence deal with the Burman Nationalists, led by Aung San, leaving the Karen and other ethnic minority groups in a precarious position.  Soon Benny will become an architect of the Karen revolution, which sparks the longest running civil war in recorded history.

Nearly a decade into the civil war. Louisa captures the country’s imagination, becoming Burma’s first national beauty queen. As she navigates her soaring fame and increasingly dire political reality, she will be forced to reckon with her family’s past, the West’s ongoing covert dealings in Burma, and her own loyalty to the cause of the Karen people.

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