Of Roots and Wings: A Memoir
by Wai Wai Myaing

"What started out as fledglings leaving the nest became an introduction to a wider world for their parents' generation."

This memoir begins with the author, a girl of nine, witnessing the independence celebrations of Myanmar in January 1948. Soon after British departure, the Burmese leader was assassinated and insurgents fought to gain control.

Myanmar, or Burma as it was called, remains a Buddhist country that has roots firmly planted in the family. Multi-generational households are the norm. Even the stern stepmother of Wai Wai's father, with her son, lived with them. Family celebrations are large, and usually include feasts for the Buddhist monks. To preserve respect, the people address each generation politely. An older woman's name is preceded by Daw; a younger male's name by Ko. Myanmar children receive only a birth name and no surname. To identify students, teachers in British schools gave children an English name or their father's last name.

As Myanmar's economy declined further, more men worked away from their native home. Students seeking good educations left as well. At twenty-three, Wai Wai studied one year in London, returning home to live with her parents. At twenty-nine, she married Soe Myint, had a son, and then traveled five years as the wife of the Deputy Chief of Mission, which was a position beneath the Ambassador to both Yugoslavia and India. Eventually the couple returned to their small house on family land.

Wai Wai's brothers worked abroad. Soon her children left to study, each finding a job overseas and marrying. Snapping photos and collecting information for this and a previous memoir, Wai Wai "visited places primarily to be with friends or family." By 2007 life came full circle, with brothers and other repatriates home and the author a retired educator.

Many will know Myanmar only through the movie, The King and I, or perhaps the struggles of freedom activist Aung San Suu Kyi. This glimpse into the lives of a traditional Burmese family should fascinate readers. The author acknowledges that values change, but insists that fundamental values of human decency and dignity prevail.

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