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Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka Paperback – January 4, 2011
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In 2001, just weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center, Barker packed up herself and her 14-year-old son and traveled to Sri Lanka to teach literature at a university in Kandy. It’s a complete change of pace from her life in Tucson, Arizona, from the omnipresent ants she can’t seem to drive away from her house to the monkeys that sit in on and often disrupt her lectures. As she adjusts to life in Kandy, she learns more about the history of the country, and the civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, triggered in the wake of the British departure from the island. At the time of her arrival, the war had already claimed over forty thousand lives. Barker eventually returns to the U.S. with her son, but when the devastating tsunami hits the day after Christmas in 2004, she is drawn back to Sri Lanka. Rich in the tales of Sri Lanka under colonial British rule as well as coverage of the current civil war, Barker’s memoir is an enlightening and captivating read. --Kristine Huntley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Rich in the tales of Sri Lanka under colonial British rule as well as coverage of the current civil war, Barker’s memoir is an enlightening and captivating read.”—Kristine Huntley, Booklist
“Anyone going to Sri Lanka should consider Adele Barker’s Not Quite Paradise essential reading. Even travelers headed to other parts of the globe—or those going no farther than their own living room—will find this story of an American woman thoughtfully wending her way through the complexities of another country’s culture and history fascinating.”—Kristin Ohlson, author of Stalking the Divine and coauthor of Kabul Beauty School
“Adele Barker offers this memorable gift: the story of strangers from very different countries becoming cherished and enduring friends. Against the background of a most beautiful country and through the tragedies that have marred its recent history, her love of the land and for its people won a high place in this reader’s heart.”—Mary Oliver, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet
Top customer reviews
Sri Lanka is a tiny island nation populated by two distinct ethnic groups: the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. It was once a colony of Britain but after the British pulled out, tensions escalated culminating in the civil war between the LTTE, a faction of Tamil terrorists, and the Sinhalese government that began in 1983. Adele makes the country's history come alive and she talks about the conflict from an unbiased point of view. Her own personal experiences as an American adjusting to life in Sri Lanka add touches of humor to the narrative.
Not Quite Paradise was an intensely personal reading experience for me. My parents are originally from Sri Lanka. They immigrated in the mid 70s before I was born. If not for that choice, my sister and I would have grown up there in the middle of the war. The descriptions of war violence were very hard to read about. Although the war ended last year it will take a long time to rebuild and heal. People in Sri Lanka have suffered a lot but even among the sorrow they have hope. There is a lot of beauty and rich culture on the island. Adele is particularly interested in elephants and local birds and I enjoyed reading about the animals that she saw. She also met and made a lot of new friends both Sinhalese and Tamil and she shares their stories with us. I admired Adele's bravery in coming to a country so different to her and I like how open she was to new cultures and ways of belief. Her conversational writing style is mostly accessible and flows well. If you enjoy reading narrative nonfiction and learning about other cultures, you might enjoy Not Quite Paradise.
One thing I enjoyed about the book was that Barker not only included her own experiences living in Sri Lanka, but she also included some of its history (as you can see from the first few sentences.) I found the mix of history and personal experience quite interesting and effective.
*You can read all of my reviews at my blog, [...]*