Freedom From Fear and Other Writings by Aung San Suu Kyi, edited by Michael Aris

Review:

Freedom from Fear - Desmond M. Tutu,Michael Aris,Aung San Suu Kyi,Václav Havel,Desmond Tutu Oh, the feels. There’s just too much here and during this time. I’m trying to keep this to a review and will post the book inspired rant later. Please bear with me, there will be crossover. This book is amazing and really showcases the struggle and strength of a founder of democracy for her country. This is one of my Reading Nobel Women books. Aung San Suu Kyi was the recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

Freedom from Fear – collected writings from the Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi Aung San Suu Kyi’s collected writings – edited by her late husband, whom the ruling military junta prevented from visiting Burma as he was dying of cancer – reflects her greatest hopes and fears for her fellow Burmese people, and her concern about the need for international co-operation in the continuing fight for Burma’s freedom. Bringing together her most powerful speeches, letters and interviews, this remarkable collection gives a voice to Burma’s ‘woman of destiny’, whose fate remains in the hands of her enemies. Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the world’s greatest living defenders of freedom and democracy, and an inspiration to millions worldwide. This book sits alongside Nelson Mandela’s memoir Long Walk to Freedom. ‘This book is bound to become a classic for a new generation of Asians who value democracy even more highly than Westerners do, simply because they are deprived of the basic freedoms that Westerners take for granted’The New York Times ‘Aung San Suu Kyi’s extraordinary achievement has been to confront the regime peacefully, reasonably and persuasively… [in] one of the most laudable continuing acts of political courage’ Financial Times ‘Such is the depth of passion and learning that she brings to her writings about national identity and its links with culture and language that she has attracted the admiration of intellectuals around the world’ Sunday Times Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy. She was placed under house arrest in Rangoon in 1989, where she remained for almost 15 of the 21 years until her release in 2010, becoming one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners. She is also the author of Letters from Burma.

My feelings about what I was reading alternated based on the current US political scene. I was reading it during the last presidential debate and while I was watching the states turn red on election day. I’d rather not get into American politics, but there were some serious concerns on both sides of the aisle and here and some outrage in the aftermath that made reading about student protests in another country and almost 20 years ago that much more relevant.

The book begins with a foreword by Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband, Michael Aris. He explains a little of their history together and what had been happening since her struggle for democracy began, it’s the personal side that includes that her children had not been able to see her for years on account of it.  As someone who works in a “masculine” field and has been married to an at-home dad for six years, I cannot adequately explain how much I adore Aris’s support of his wife and the way he never alludes to feelings of emasculation. A woman’s struggle and strength does not inherently emasculate her husband. It just doesn’t. I love how compiling this work and editing it must have allowed him to feel close to her despite all the things that were keeping them apart at the time of its writing.

He then explains the format for the book.  It is broken in three parts. The first are the works about Burma that she wrote before her political involvement. They give the reader a good sense of Burma and how much she loves and appreciates her country. They also get cited quite a bit later, so it helps to have read these works. The next part is her political writings that are mostly by her as well, but some are about her and written by others, such as the acceptance speech given for the Nobel Peace Prize that was given by her son.

It was this part that first made me think about the democracy that we have here and what we want here and what our ideals about democracy really are. It’s easy to look at the long history of US democracy and lose the ideas of a founder. This book helped me out with that a little. At worse, it just changed my thoughts about what was going through their minds. There’s the bits on the military and how it should (and in the US does) stay out of politics. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was consistently harassed by the military and denied the authorization to assemble but the demonstrations stayed peaceful. It was interesting to see the way she used the presence of the military at her demonstrations as an opportunity to reach out to rather than criticize them.

The last part are the writings in appreciation of Aung San See Kyi’s movement and her character. One is written by a personal friend, which was an interesting touch. Another seems a bit more objective but still focuses on the way her involvement changed the movement that had already been there, the way she led them into unity and how she maintained a platform of peaceful protest for democracy over crowds that could have easily gotten violent.

The whole book is a beautiful testament to her strong leadership and character is a proponent of peace and democracy in her country. It recognizes that her position was merely advantageous in the beginning but acknowledges that it was her personal strength and ability that got the country to where it needed to go. It is not a memoir, which was what I had read about previous laureates. I love memoirs, but it was interesting to change it up in that this is part of the body of work that she was given the award for rather than her personal experience through it.

It was also a timely read, as mentioned before. It gives good insight into the mind of a revolutionary striving for democracy in a country that has never had it. The inspirational nature of her writing works to make me want to work on improving upon our own democracy and how it works, to get more involved.

The book can be purchased at Amazon and the Book Depository, I read a library copy.

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