Friday, June 21, 2024

Brotherless Night

Brotherless Night
  Brotherless Night
Author:  V. V. Ganeshananthan
Publication Information:  Random House. 2023. 368 pages.
ISBN:  0812997158 / 978-0812997156

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I recently sent a letter to a terrorist I used to know."

Favorite Quote:  "Tell the UN, tell the Red Cross, tell the newspapers that we are dying, they said. What was it like? Oh, they told us, we die on the beach. We die in the sea, swimming for rescue, and we die in the sand. We dig bunkers for shelter and they becomes graves. Our bodies bleed and shatter and burn. We are leaving our elders and children behind us."

Sri Lanka is a small island nation in the Indian Ocean off the coast of India. Geographically, Sri Lanka is only about 25,000 square miles - a little bit larger than the state of West Virginia; its population in about 20 million people - about the population of the state of New York.

The biggest ethnic population in Sri Lanka is the Sinahala. The largest minority is the Tamil. According to legend, the Sinhala claim to be descendants from the earliest settlers of Sri Lanka. The Tamil claim an equally long history in Sri Lanka. The two groups are divided religiously and ethnically.

Sri Lanka became an independent nation in 1948 with the departure of the British control from the Indian subcontinent. Since that time, the relations between the Sinhala and the Tamil have been strained. Riots have occurred throughout the nation's short history, with the Tamil working for an independent homeland and the Sinhala working to keep government control.

In 1983, the country went into Civil War - the government and army representing the Sinhala, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the Tamil Tigers) representing the Tamil nationalist interests. Black July is the name given to a pogrom in 1983, where thousands died and many more were injured and even more were left homeless.

This is the story of Black July and its aftermath. It is the story of how extremism grows and takes root on all sides of a political dialogue. It is the story of how the divides becomes larger and larger. It is the story of a young girl - Shashikala - and her brothers. It is the story of how her family's life turns into a "brotherless" night.

Told through the voice of Shahikala, the book talks directly to the reader with a repeated refrain of you must understand:
  • "Imagine the places you grew up, the places you studied, places that belonged to your people, burned. But I should stop pretending that I know you. Perhaps you do n to have to imagine. Perhaps your library too, went up in smoke."
  • "The unholy, untranslatable fear. You tell yourself that you are prepared, but then the terror rises inside you."
  • "I want you to understand: it does not matter if you cannot imagine the future. Still, relentless, it comes."
  • "You want to go on in some sort of peaceful life, but there was never a peaceful life. That was a myth."
  • "You are thinking, as anyone would, as everyone has, at least in passing. about what you would have done. If I were in his shoes, I would never, you have said to yourself; or perhaps you are sure you would have done exactly the same. There is no way to know, truly, without standing where we did."
  • "You must understand: there is no single day on which a war begins. The conflict will collect around you gradually ... You will not even be able to see yourself in the gathering crowd of those who would kill you."
  • "Perhaps you know all of this already; perhaps I am telling you a story you already understand. What I wouldn't give for that to be true! But we both know it isn't."
  • "Whose stories will you believe? For how long will you listen? Tell me why you think you are here, and that will."
As with Island of a Thousand Mirrors, this book leaves a lasting impact. Reading it at this moment in history perhaps magnifies the impact as these tragic words continue to resonate in conflicts around the world. Despite the repeated pleas for understanding, we do not understand.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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