2017 National Book Award Longlist, Fiction

Charmaine Craig

Miss Burma, by Charmaine Craig Charmaine Craig
Miss Burma
(Grove Press / Grove Atlantic)

ISBN: 9780802126450

National Book Foundation: Why did you write this book?
Charmaine Craig: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t intrigued and frightened by my mother’s past in Burma, the country of her birth.  She had risen to national celebrity there as a beauty queen before assuming leadership of an ethnic minority resistance army.  How could someone so modest—someone who called herself a pacifist and taught me to cultivate inner beauty—have participated in those things? And why did she speak longingly of a country that practiced a systematized form of ethnic cleansing? Writing the novel was a way for me to explore the perceptions, dilemmas, and yearnings of characters driven to act heroically during appalling times. But it also became a way for me to set the historical record straight: to capture the disappeared history of Burma’s persecuted minorities, and to track the geopolitical movements—including the United States’—that gave rise to Burma’s military dictatorship and ongoing waves of genocide.
Foundation: What’s your favorite bookstore or library?
Craig: Two public libraries are particularly dear to me.  The first is on Orcas Island in Washington, where both of my children became fluent readers, and where we have close family. Almost everything this special library does is in support of literacy, intellectual freedom, and the privacy of people’s intellectual lives. Its doors are open to everyone, and everyone who lives on the island seems to pass through those doors regularly. The second is in Kansas City, Kansas, a city of immigrants and refugees. The Kansas City, Kansas Public Library serves speakers of over sixty languages (including several Burmese ethnic minority languages). Its staff members have come up with extraordinary ways to serve these readers’ needs, including developing unsecured collections that patrons don’t have to check out in traditional ways—a system of trust that is working and inspiring.


Based of the lives of the author’s mother and grandparents, Miss Burma tells the story of modern-day Burma through the eyes of one family struggling to find love, justice, and meaning during a time of war and political repression.

About the Author

Charmaine Craig’s first novel, The Good Men, was a national bestseller translated into six languages. Craig is a faculty member in the Department of Creative Writing at UC Riverside and the descendant of significant figures in Burma’s modern history. A former actor in film and television, she studied literature at Harvard University and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughters.


- WEBSITE: charmainecraig.com

- FACEBOOK: facebook.com/charmainecraigauthor

(Photo credit: Roy Zipstein)


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