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For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question: A Story from Burma's Never-Ending War Paperback – February 16, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Alternately poignant and raucous, angry and heartbreaking...McClelland's reporting is very much from-the-ground-up, far livelier than we will ever get from the average foreign correspondent." -Adam Hochschild

"Any reporting on the notoriously underdocumented Burmese war is critical reading; a page-turner like this one is not to be missed." -San Francisco magazine

About the Author

Mac McClelland is an award-winning journalist who has reported in every region in the US, undercover in industry and sex work, and from international locations including Europe, Thailand, Haiti, Australia, Burma, Uganda, Turkey, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Bhutan. She's appeared on major national and international media outlets such as C-Span, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now, the BBC, CBC, and Deutsche Welle. 
Mac has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Hillman Foundation, the Online News Association, the Society of Environmental Journalists, and the Association for Women in Communications; For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question was a finalist for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and she's been nominated for two National Magazine Awards for Feature Writing. You can find her work anthologized in the Best American Magazine Writing, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Best Business Writing.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (February 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593762658
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593762650
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By V. Mcclelland on February 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is not what you would expect from a non-fiction work about the history of Burma and the plight of its people. McClelland manages to make it personal to the reader, drawing many correlations to our way of life. Also, woven around the history and horrific facts of Burma, is a personal story of how the author spent time living with a group of Karen refugees in Thailand that provides a glimpse into the reality of their existence, thinking and day to day lives.

This is a moving story that will leave you wondering why you didn't know about the atrocities in Burma committed by its ruthless and heartless regime that continue to this day.

Excellent reading!
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This is an eye-opening account into the current life of Burma refugees and I found appealing the raw style "For us Surrender is Out of the Question" is written in. The extensively researched historical details and McClelland's candid personal stories make the book genuine and authentic. The deeply affecting stories and people I cannot forget. It is unusual to find such a compelling read and history lesson in one book.
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Who else writes like this? I can't remember the last time something sounded so fresh and immediate. Reading this book was like being on the phone with my smart, cool friend who just came back from the refugee camp, and hearing her unvarnished stories, raw and genuine ("I'm a queen dork." The Junta "sucks." Or this, my favorite footnote: "?!"). Which is not to say it's in the least bit juvenile or gratuitous, but that in Mac's capable hands, even the longest stretches of political history percolate along, the way your favorite professor made even the dry stuff come alive.

But what made it a page turner for me was getting to know the refugees. The people, and Mac's interactions with them, provide the warm counterbalance to the relentlessly horrific story of modern Burma. I was dying to learn what happens to them, and to the refugee camps, and Burma.

Just an utterly unforgettable book.
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From the very first page, the author captures your attention and takes you on an adventure with her. Ms. McClelland certainly has a unique way with words and she continuously educates, surprises, entertains, and enlightens you. Extremely thorough in her historical research and vividly descriptive in sharing her personal interactions and experiences. I did not want this book to end. It left me definitely wanting more. I was so moved and inspired, I felt like packing a bag and volunteering in Burma much like she had. This is a must read book for everyone who cares about human suffering, peace, social justice, economic equality, and human rights.
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I live in the Twin Cities in MN, where numerous refugees from Southeast Asia live. While the Hmong from neighboring Laos, the ethnic Lao, Vietnamese, and Khmer from Cambodia have received a great deal of attention from scholars and at least some community members, the Karen are still a mystery to most, including myself. As I read McClelland's account, I was struck with the similarities between the Hmong and the Karen--marginalized mountain people considered outside the bounds of civilization by mainstream society, converted in significant numbers to Christianity, some siding with a Western power to their detriment, and tragically divided amongst themselves. Both continue to operate resistance movements in Thailand and have "mystically" inspired individuals carrying on the fight. Thailand once again plays the corrupt villain in this story, expediently abandoning their former allies ("After decades of complicity, cooperation and sanctuary, Thailand has told the KNU [Karen National Union], which has long been largely based there, to get out and go back where it came from"); Western countries don't seem to understand or care about the situation in Burma (though Condoleeza Rice finally eased restrictions that kept many Karen out of the US), and the UN refuses to try to exert any meaningful influence. McClelland does a fine job of alternating between devastating statistics, horrific descriptions of torture and genocide, personal accounts of her work with a small band of Karen "terrorists," and thoughtful reflections on what it all means and what, if anything, can be done about it. As others have noted, hers is a more gritty, journalistic, less formal approach that serves her story very well and certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.Read more ›
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An excellent treatment of the history of the ongoing struggle of the Karen people and the comeeczities associated with the insurgency, burmese history, and the experiences of so many young men at a truly pivotal point is the history of Karen in Mae sot.

I also enjoyed her honest depiction of how she, an educated and bisexual American female, developed relationships with men far removed from her world view. Sadly, her judgmental American style is all too typical of a people who place their world view above all others. Her judgmentalism is typical of the 21st century ugly-American. The final chapters chronicling her final days of parting with the boys lessons an otherwise excellent narrative. Her depiction of her relationship with Htan Dah represents yet another aspect of the novel I could do without. It exemplifies how seeming progressive Americans have little respect for love, sex and cultural differences.
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