Thursday, November 05, 2015

I Feel Bad About Why I Liked "Bamboo People"

I have this feeling that I should have liked Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins because it dealt with young people from a culture unfamiliar to me who overcome dire problems. I should be sensitive to all that.

Instead, I liked Bamboo People because the first half is a mash-up of a young people from a culture unfamiliar to me with dire problems story and a traditional prison camp tale. Okay, technically the characters are in the Burmese military. But their training site is like a prison camp. You've got your evil commandant, your friendly guard, your inmates who suck up to those in power, your clever, street-smart guy who often saves situations. Anyone else hear the theme music to Hogan's Heroes? On top of that, the young Burmese men being trained in their military's camp were, shall we say, impressed into service, similar to the way the British impressed male citizens into serving in their navy before the nineteenth century. Chiko, our main character, certainly seemed imprisoned.

I was disappointed at the mid-point when bookish, educated young Chiko gets out of the prison--I mean, training--camp. At that point, Bamboo People became a mash-up of a young people from a culture unfamiliar to me in dire circumstances story and a traditional war story. Chiko is still there, but he's now a secondary character in a new guy's account of his war experience.

You could say that the two parts of the book are two sides of the same story about conflict in Burma, with the young main characters not having a lot of control over their parts in what is happening.

Bamboo People would be a good book to offer students as a reading option for world studies classes, because young readers may find themselves hooked by the same aspects of the book that hooked me.

As an aside, last week I discussed in my NaNoWriMo workshop how creating friends for a main character can help a writer develop plot. I used Chiko's two friends in Bamboo People as an example.

Another aside: I feel so worldly after reading this book, because I now know that Burma and Myanmar are the same place. Also, since reading this book, I've been seeing references to Myanmar or Burma over and over again. It looks as if one of my Facebook friends is there now.



tanita✿davis said...

Heh. I was like this reading Gail Carringer's Finishing School series. I love school stories - but when they left school, it turned into something else - but then, I like spy stories pretty well, too. I didn't realize prison camp was a... thing. I shall have to rethink TVLand and Hogan's Heroes!

Gail Gauthier said...

Well, I remember reading something called "King Rat" when I was a teenager, which I remember as being about a POW camp. Then Hogan's Heroes was a spin on the movie Stalag 17, which I saw on TV. So that seems like a thing to me.

Since you brought up Gail Carringer, do you think it would be appropriate to give my sixteen-year-old niece "Soulless?" She told me she likes steampunk. Is it a little too steamy for an aunt to give her niece? We've both read the "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" series, which pretty much ended up being a will-they-or-won't-they story. The answer to that question regarding "Soulless" comes pretty early.

I've been giving her books since she was 11 or younger, so you can see why I'm concerned about when it's okay to make the jump to sex scenes. She says she's fine with it.