Thursday, January 15, 2015

Kyi May Kaung's review of Rona Pederson's The Burma Spring--

As I just indicated, the PR person at Pegasus Books sent me a review copy of Rona Pederson's The Burma Spring--

In two hours, I have since leafed through it and read some sections which appear interesting to me.

It is quite an impressive listing of facts and interviews and material gleaned from interviews as well as written material, articles and books.

And it told me some things I did not know before, such as the "history" between pro-regime scholar Robert Taylor and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  I did not expect them to like each other.

I did not like the remarks David Steinberg made about her--in my mind Steinberg isn't even a good scholar and way below the intelligence level of Suu Kyi and most democracy activists.

The Pederson book told me some things about how Mrs Laura Bush and Mrs Clinton became interested in and involved in the Burma issue.

But I do have a problem with the book--it seems to me, other than the positive title that assumed there is such a thing as a Burmese spring, to have no premise, and it just ends like that after 521 pages with no conclusions drawn and no analysis nor projections of what might and could happen, and the prospects for these assumed "reforms."  The reforms are not even described nor evaluated.

So it comes to just a formless recitation of different people's roles--but again US policy as regards Burma is not assessed.

Though laden with quite a bit of information, most of which I had read before, other than Stephen Law's many aliases as enumerated by the US DEA (p. 290)

that section on the corrupt junta and cronies was very depressing.

I have no idea at all on what Pederson thinks of the new post-2011 initiative after Suu Kyi's 2010 release.

In all the book is formless--just events and happenings strung together and narrated.

One thing is certain, she is not a spell-binding writer like Mark Bowden {author of Black Hawk Down, Killing Pablo (Escobar) etc.} who has elevated narrative non-fiction to a high art.

This may sound strange to you, but you should only buy this book as a reference book, not as something that will increase your understanding of Burma.

I intend to use my free copy as a reference for my fiction.

About three stars, out of five--

I don't like it as much as Peter Popham's biography of Daw Suu--I found much I agreed with in Popham's book and he writes better.

This book does not have footnotes nor end notes--

but mainly it has no structure, no premise and no conclusions.

The last 2 pages (p. 520 and 521) indeed are very strange, with a format that goes CLICK, and then another CLICK

to describe activist Zin Mar Aung and the 2007 monks' marches--What are these "clicks"?  I have never seen them in the hundreds of books I have read--

Disclaimer, I never promised the publicist I would write a favorable review, as I did not know beforehand if I would like it or not.

It is a good chronicling, but without analysis--

Too bad.

Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D.)
Burma analyst.


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