March 27, 2023

Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know

Author David I. Steinberg

Oxford University Press,

October 2009


A Book Review by Will Shapira

Did you know that with an estimated 3,000 Karen refugees settled in Minnesota, we are now home to about one-sixth of all of those who through 2008 managed to escape the murderous military junta that rules Burma-Myanmar with a bloody iron fist?

That’s just one of the facts I gleaned from a new book entitled “Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know” by David I. Steinberg (Oxford University Press). Steinberg is a Professor of Asian Studies and the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

For those unfamiliar with the Karen, I also recommend a searing article about how difficult it is for them to escape the clutches of the junta: “Surrender Is Not an Option” by Mac McClellan in the March/April Edition of The article is now a book with the same title.

As volunteer tutor of English to about 30 high school age students at Fairview Alternative high School, Roseville, Minn., I know first-hand about the living hell some of them endured before they were able to come to the U.S. from refugee camps in Thailand, sponsored either by religious organizations or by the U.N. To better understand our new neighbors, reading the book will be of great assistance.

Some of the questions Steinberg answers include: Why are we interested in Burma/Myanmar? What are the crises facing Burma/Myanmar? How Does Burmese History Relate to Contemporary Events? Is democracy a reasonable expectation for Myanmar in the near term? In the future? And perhaps of greatest interest to our new immigrants: What might the role of the Burmese diaspora be in a new government?

Of course, the book also covers the face of Burma/Myanmar to most of the world: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, held in permanent detention in her island home in Rangoon.

As our new Minnesotans gain a command of English, they will learn more about her as they prepare to become loyal, productive citizens in their new homeland. This journal will chronicle their progress en route.

Will Shapira is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism, and is now retired from a long career in the news business and public relations. He is book reviewer for the national newsletter of Veterans for Peace and his letters to the editor on a variety of topics appear regularly in local media. He can be contacted at [email protected] or 651-493-7473.

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