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The Rainbow Troops: A Novel Hardcover – February 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Hirata’s writing is as brilliant, beautiful, remarkable, and engrossing as the characters and the world he brings us. If you’ve ever been afraid to dream, or disbelieved in the true power of learning, read The Rainbow Troops and you’ll be changed by the two guardians and their small number of students, whose intelligence and vibrancy will intoxicate you. This is a treasure from one of the largest Muslim societies in the world.” —Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone

The Rainbow Troops is a charming, funny, moving story about growing up and going to school on the island of Belitong in Indonesia. The Rainbow Troops are students in a poor, beleaguered village school, run by a pair of courageous and generous teachers who protect and champion their tiny class. I loved reading these stories about brave, smart, resourceful kids, set in a magical landscape that includes clouds, crocodiles, and shamans, as well as tin mining, politics, and regional school competitions.” —Roxana Robinson, author of Cost

About the Author

Andrea Hirata is an Indonesian writer. He was a participant in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 2010. His first novel, The Rainbow Troops (Laskar Pelangi), sold more than five million copies in Indonesia, making him the country’s bestselling writer of all time, as well as its first to enjoy truly international success: The Rainbow Troops has been published or is forthcoming in twenty-three countries and counting. Hirata has written three sequels to The Rainbow Troops: Sang Pemimpi (The Dreamer), Edensor, and Maryama Karpov. He lives in Indonesia.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books; 1st edition (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374246319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374246310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,171,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ray Jenkins on January 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read the Indonesian version, Laskar Pelangi, three years ago and loved it. I thoroughly immersed myself in every situation feeling the pain, the jubilation, the frustration,the excitement. It gave me a much better feeling for the culture of Belitung and how it is sometimes possible to raise oneself out of poverty as long as one has the dream to do so. I have just read the English translation and I give full marks to Angie Kilbane for her very capable translation. As for Andrea Hirata, he must be one of the most outstanding new authors in the world today. Congratulations.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Shelleyrae TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The Rainbow Troops is a remarkable debut novel by a young man who once promised his schoolteacher he would write a book in her honor. Inspired by Hirata's own childhood experiences on the tiny, isolated island of Belitong, on the east coast of Sumatra, this is the poignant story of ten young children from among the islands poorest families, and their struggle to gain the education they are guaranteed under Indonesian law.

On his first day at Belitong's only free school, Muhammadiyah Elementary, Ikal breathes a sigh of relief when the tenth child the school needs to remain operational appears at enrollment at the last minute, saving him from being sent to work as a helper at the grocery market or a coolie (labourer) for the miners or fishermen to supplement his family's meagre income. As he takes his seat in the ramshackle building which contains not much more than a chalkboard and a few desks and chairs he marvels at the opportunity he has been given, ignoring the leaking roof, "...a roof with leaks so large that students see planes flying in the sky and have to hold umbrellas while studying on rainy days", crumbling concrete floors and missing wall planks. In front of Ikal stands fifteen year old Bus Mus, the new class teacher, and school supervisor, Pak Harfan. Beside him sits nine other children, the Rainbow Troops.

Though simply written, this is an inspiring tale of struggle against adversity told with warmth, humour and tenderness. The children, the Rainbow Troops, will capture your heart as Ikal shares their stories, recounting his friends achievements, triumphs and tragedies as they struggle to claim their right to an education.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By H. Schneider on April 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Quite a discovery. A modern Indonesian autobiographical novel about growing up among poor Malays in Sumatra.
'No matter how bad their circumstances, they always consider themselves fortunate. That is the use of religion.' (Does anybody feel reminded of a famous quote from another writer?)

Belitong, or Billiton, is an Indonesian island to the east of South Sumatra. It is not a poor island, due to its tin mines (the company BHP Billiton originated here), but it has its share of poor people, the laborers, fishermen, and farmers. The book was a commercial success in a country not famous for widespread reading. It is well worth our time.
(By the way, the island is also Conrad territory, see The Rescue.)

The main theme is poor kids' struggle for schooling: a small elementary school of the Muhammadiya persuasion, or rather, the story of a class of 10 students. One less and the school would have been shut down.
Why did the kids enroll in a Muhammadiya school? 3 reasons: first, the school charged no fees; second, the parents didn't want the devil to lead their kids astray; third, no other school would have accepted them.

Muhammadiya is a reformist Islamic organization in Indonesia, not a political party, but oriented towards education and charity. Motto: do what is good and prevent what is evil. It has 30 million members and runs thousands of schools. I know nothing negative about them, though I am not normally friendly towards religious organizations. However it is not as if they gave this school much in terms of resources... Apart from an heroical teacher, a 15 y old girl when it starts, who doesn't even get paid for the work, the school is little more than a shack.
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By Amelia68 on May 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Andrea Hirata's Rainbow Troops is both humbling and inspiring, a reminder that there is a lot we take for granted in this country which is a privilege in other, less fortunate places - such as the right to free education. Written as homage to his elementary school teacher and classmates, the story's honesty and humour will warm your heart and leave you with a feeling of hope.

Born the son of a miner on the tiny Indonesian island of Belitong, on the East coast of Sumatra, six-year-old Ikal knows the huge sacrifice his parents are making to send one of their children to school in the hope of giving him a better future. On his first day at Muhammadiyah Elementary School, a poor, ramshackle building on the verge of collapse, Ikal sighs in relief as the target number of students is reached to keep the school open, giving them a chance to receive an education. There are ten students all up, only one of them female, all of them children of the poorest families on the island - fishermen, miners labourers and farmers, who can't even afford school uniforms or books for their children. Their teacher, fifteen-year old Bu Mus, has to work as a seamstress at night to be able to survive on the minimal teacher's wage she receives.

Despite the island's mineral riches, none of the wealth filters through to its native inhabitants. Originally a British and then a Dutch colony, the riches are held by the large PN Mining Company, whilst most of the island's inhabitants live in poverty, each generation repeating the same cycle of illiteracy and hard labour without a way of escaping. Muhammadiyah Elementary School, constantly threatened by closure by government officials or mining magnates, is so ramshackle that it faces the daily threat of collapse.
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