Everything Is Broken: A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma by Emma Larkin (Penguin Press, April 29, 2010), 288 pages
In May 2008 the massive Cyclone Nargis hit Burma, wreaking untold havoc on a heavily populated delta region. When the international community responded with aid, the ruling military regime denied access.
Going into this book, knowing it’s about a devastating hurricane and its aftermath, I knew it wasn’t going to be fun. I feared it might be incredibly depressing. I also knew I *needed* to read it. Larkin wouldn’t have had to stretch to make the book so, but instead, thankfully, she went another way. Or perhaps, since the darkness in the book wasn’t a surprise, it didn’t hurt me so much to read about it. Regardless, Everything Is Broken is incredibly intriguing, and not in that car-crash-rubbernecker way.
I remember the May 2008 cyclone and when it hit Burma. In my mind I’ve long compared and contrasted this disaster with the December 2004 tsunami that devastated so many Asian countries.
In a nutshell: Everything Is Broken is not a fun book (Hey, consider the topic!), but it’s definitely a good one. Besides great coverage of the hurricane’s aftermath, it has lots of good background information and is very readable. The history was fascinating, to say the least.
Tangent: While reading this book, I was frequently reminded of Kimya Dawson’s song 12 26, about the December 2004 tsunami. Totally different events, and very different responses. But some of the sentiments expressed in the song (Note: At some point I saw the song labeled as explicit, basically because of its depictions of the tsunami. While I don’t think the song necessarily deserves the label, some of the images in the linked video are pretty graphic.)
About the author
Emma Larkin is the pseudonym for an American who was born and raised in Asia and studied the Burmese language at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She lives in Thailand and has been visiting Burma for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of Finding George Orwell in Burma, which I’d heard of somewhere in the blogosphere.
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