How to pronounce Vaddey Ratner: ve-DAY RAT-ner
Vaddey Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. After four years, having endured forced labor, starvation, and near execution, she and her mother escaped while many of her family members perished. In 1981, she arrived in the U.S. as a refugee not knowing English and, in 1990, went on to graduate as her high school class valedictorian. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Cornell University, where she specialized in Southeast Asian history and literature.
Ratner spent nine years in Southeast Asia while researching and writing her first novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan, and now divides her time between Southeast Asia and Washington, DC. Her second novel, Music of the Ghosts, was published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in April 2017.
Vaddey Ratner's website
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In two interviews, Vaddey Ratner discusses her first and second books book, In the Shadow of the Banyan and Music of The Ghosts, and how they reflect the experiences of her and her family during and after the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia.
Music of The Ghosts
In the Shadow of the Banyan was largely autobiographical. How was the writing process different for Music of the Ghosts?
With Banyan, the fear was delving into something so deeply personal, so traumatic. I didn't know whether I could stop the process, once I dove in. I didn't know what else I would find.
With Music of the Ghosts, I knew I wanted to write about forgiveness and atonement, but I didn't know whether the characters I'd brought forth were capable of this. I felt more at the mercy of the characters. I had to access them on all levels--emotional and psychological, political and intellectual--and within these pages, I had to make their journey complete, without the chronology of real-life histories to rely on.
Banyan was scary because it was autobiographical; Music was scary because it wasn't.
The horror of the Khmer Rouge is hard to comprehend. How do people in such dire situations hold onto...
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