Join us for an evening of discussion with special guest

is held in conjunction with
The Institute of International Education

Thursday, November 29, 2012

6 p.m. | Reception
6:30 p.m. | Presentation
7:15 p.m. | Book Signing

Institute of International Education
809 United Nations Plaza, Kaufman Center
New York, NY



UNA Members: FREE
UNA Student Members: FREE
Guests and Non-Members: $15

IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN is a captivating first novel that has generated remarkable pre-publication excitement and praise, in which a survivor of the killing fields of Cambodia weaves a spellbinding tale of human resilience amidst horror, the redemptive promise of stories, and the enduring power of love.

Vaddey Ratner was a young girl surrounded by privilege when the revolutionary faction known as the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. Despite their royal lineage — Vaddey's father was a great grandson of the 20th century King Sisowath, and she carries the official title of Princess to this day — her family was driven from their home in the capital city of Phnom Penh into a four-year nightmare of separation, forced labor, starvation, execution, and death. With this book, Ratner magnificently transforms a narrative of atrocity into a work of art as she blends the entrancing folklore and literature of her native land with the story of her own family, pays tribute to the memory of those lost, and bears eloquent witness to the indomitable human will to survive, even in the most terrible circumstances.

Ratner, who now lives in the U.S., based IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN closely on her own experience and that of her family. But in writing it, the author explains, "I didn't want just to translate my family's experience, a Cambodian experience, to a foreign audience; I wanted to take the readers and replant them in the fertile ground I'd sprung from, to let them take root and sprout, and to see my world as their own. I wanted them to see Cambodia before it became synonymous with genocide, before it became the 'killing fields.' It was once a place of exquisite beauty, and I try to show that not only by locating the readers in the loveliness of the natural world but also by immersing them in the rhythm of a people's thoughts and sentiments, in its literature and art. Only when we know what existed can we truly mourn what is lost."

The first novel by a survivor of the Cambodian genocide to be published in English, this work follows in the footsteps of classic Holocaust memoirs such as Elie Wiesel's Night and distinguished novels of human endurance and triumph like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, Sophie's Choice by William Styron, and The Known World by Edward P. Jones. Putting Vaddey Ratner's astounding gift for language and storytelling on dazzling display, it plumbs one young girl's searing experiences during the Khmer Rouge era to portray above all the unquenchable human desire to live, and the universal power of stories to help us transcend suffering, loss, and tragedy.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN is a profoundly moving testament to the sustaining and healing power of stories.

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 in Minnesota. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Cornell University, where she specialized in Southeast Asian history and literature.

In recent years she traveled and lived in Cambodia and Southeast Asia, writing and researching, which resulted in her debut novel, IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN.

She lives in Potomac, Maryland, with her husband and daughter.

Visit Vaddey Ratner's website

Praise from the reviews

"Ratner is a fearless writer, and the novel explores important themes such as power, the relationship between love and guilt, and class. Most remarkably, it depicts the lives of characters forced to live in extreme circumstances, and investigates how that changes them. We are left with a profound sense of being witness to a tragedy of history." — The Guardian

"An emotionally moving story… Ratner's contemplative treatment of her protagonist and the love shared among the family stands in stark contrast to the severe reality they faced each day to survive. Knowing that the story was culled from Ratner's experiences as a child brings a sense of immediacy to this heartrending novel likely to be appreciated by many readers." — Library Journal

"This stunning memorial expresses not just the terrors of the Khmer Rouge but also the beauty of what was lost. A hauntingly powerful novel imbued with the richness of old Cambodian lore, the devastation of monumental loss, and the spirit of survival." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Often lyrical, a painful, personal record of Cambodia's holocaust." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"By countering the stark and abject reality of her experience with lyrical descriptions of the natural beauty of Cambodia and its people, Ratner has crafted an elegiac tribute to the Cambodia she knew and loved." — Booklist

"Stories like this reach deep inside us and are, dare I say, life-changing." —


UNA MEMBERS attend for FREE (reservation required)
Only UNA Members have the option of guaranteeing their seats to our events by making reservations in advance. Members attend most events for free, or pay the discounted Members' admission.

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NON-MEMBERS and Guests : $15
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(or at Members' prices for special events)

Questions? Please call (212) 907-1353 or e-mail:

NOTE: Only UNA-NY Members have guaranteed seating to all our BookTalk events, and attend for free or pay the discounted Members' admission, while Student Members attend all events for free. Non-Members must purchase tickets in advance to guarantee their seats. While we do offer a pay-at-the-door policy for guests and non-members, our events are often sold-out, so we strongly encourage membership with UNA-NY to guarantee your seats! Why not take advantage?