Concealed by the shadow of a large water tank, I sat on the heel of my right foot. The air was sweetly pungent with the smell of ripening bananas and palmyra fruit. Cicadas buzzed relentlessly as a blazing sun rose to evaporate the condensed dew in the fields we had just scurried through. The small sparsely-populated village was luscious with its manioc and banana plantations, palm trees, and water birds in flight. But all this was lost on our small platoon of twenty-two; over half of us young women. Appreciation of beauty is a luxury of the untroubled mind.
Niromi is the older daughter in a middle class Sri Lankan family, living a life of stability and privilege. She attends a good school and her family hope she will become a doctor. But around her, there are rumblings between the ruling Sinhala and the minority Tamil. Until now Niromi hasn’t really been aware of difference, but once she begins to look, her world changes. As she moves through her teenage years, she feels the injustices more and more until finally she sees that the only way to move forward to peace and equality, is via the Tamil Tigers. This puts her at odds with her family and many of her local community, but she feels that if she is to hold her head high, she must actively fight.
Tamil Tigress is not just a picture of one young woman’s fight, but of a culture torn apart by differences. Many in the minority Tamil communities feel pressure and there are many groups that spring up to fight for equality. But while they are united in feeling oppressed, there is no unity in their approach. This leads to infighting and fighting between freedom groups. In the middle is a teenager, passionate about her country and her people, but confused by the infighting, and horrified by the deaths of her friends and close allies. Sri Lanka appears a beautiful country with a rich history, but when even its name is perceived as an attempt to ‘de-Tamil’ its legacy, it must have some way to go to achieve lasting peace. An interesting, and deeply personal memoir of a life in Sri Lanka.
Tamil Tigress: My Story as a Child Soldier in Sri Lanka’s Bloody Civil War, Niromi de Soyza
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author www.clairesaxby.com
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.