As the author of a YA book about children caught in war (The Wooden Ox), I was eager to see how Mitali Perkins treats the subject in her book Bamboo People. In a word—brilliantly. She uses two point-of-view characters, one Burmese and the other from the rebellious Karenni tribe, to show the experiences that have formed their points-of-view and to expose their common humanity. (Notes at the end give an overview of the history and political situation.) Sixteen-year-old Chiko, whose doctor father is in prison for opposing the government, applies to become a teacher only to find the qualifying test is a ruse to grab boys and force them into the army. Tu Reh is angry and eager to fight since soldiers have burned his home and forced his Karenni family to flee to a refugee camp in Thailand. Each of these boy soldiers is seeking to find himself as a responsible adult in his society. Both sides have been conditioned to hate the other and yet when they meet, each learns a different story of the “enemy”.
I think of those in my own culture right now who are so quick to turn to guns to solve their problems. An old man in my state was recently convicted of murdering two teens who broke into his house. (He moved his car to look like he wasn’t home and waited in the basement with a shotgun, shooting the unarmed vandals multiple times, not just wounding them.) Is fighting and killing what it means to be a man? The author’s viewpoint is clearly anti-war and the action turns on whether Tu Reh will kill his wounded enemy Chiko or allow him to be left in the jungle to die. Or is there an alternative that will honor Tu Reh's cultural heritage?
I look forward to reading more books by this thoughtful and creative writer. They aren’t part of the genre called “Christian fiction”, but they are certainly fiction that is Christian.