Botan is the pseudonym of Supa Sirisingh, a Thai author and daughter of a father who immigrated to Thailand from China and a mother, born in Thailand to Chinese parents. Sirisingh’s father was a conservative Chinese and did not believe in education for woman, but this determined girl made it happen for herself. She won her first scholarship at age nine and eventually earned Masters degrees in Thai and English. 

Letters from Thailand was published when Sirisingh was 21 years old and was awarded the SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation) Literary Award the same year. It has been translated into 10 languages and into English by Susan Fulop Kepner. Later it became required reading for schools in Thailand. When it was first published it was a controversial book as the author portrayed the Thai and Chinese cultures in Thailand in an honest way and it offended many people in both cultures. 

Letters from Thailand is completely different from Four Reigns which I read just before this one. This book starts where Four Reigns end and shows that life in Bangkok goes on. This story is told, through poignant and honest letters to his mother in China, by a Chinese man who moved to Bangkok. It  follows his life from a young man through to being a grandfather, in a time who the social history in Thailand is changing. By showing the reader vividly everyday life we see this man’s battle as he can’t accept the Thai culture. We see that changes are unavoidable, for expats as well as natives who have to live in a community with the expats, and that makes this book so relatable. 

The different perspectives are very interesting (how the Chinese see the Thai and vice verse). It also addresses the situation all immigrants find themselves in: do you strictly keep to your own (people, language and culture) or do you embrace your new country’s culture and try to blend in. Where is the line that says you have gone too far or you have not tried hard enough? The different characters in this book experience it differently. 

If you belong to a reading group or bookclub that is made up of expats (in any country) this will be a book that will lead to heated debates as there is just so much to discuss. It’s a delightful book that I enjoyed very much.

Wow wow wow!!! What an inspirational book. The Khmer have a saying that women can’t dive deep or go far and the title of this book says that the women of Cambodia are diving deep and are going far. The book is fictional but based on the real life experiences of several Cambodian women. I think women from a developing country will tell you these stories feel so real, they have been lived by many women all over the world. These stories are of courage, determination, of fearing something but doing it anyway, they are also of hope.
I read this book in one sitting…. all of it, right to the acknowledgement page (which I usually skip).
My only problem is why was this book written by a Dutch Guy? He did a very very good job – make no mistake, but I was a bit disappointed when I discovered, in the acknowledgements, that it was written by a man. The author, Menno de Block, is a young man from the Netherlands working with NGO’s in Cambodia. In his dealing with various groups he became spellbound by the dedication and commitment he saw in the young women of Cambodia.
I’m so inspired by this book I want to pack my bags and return to Cambodia to cheer on the women that are changing their own culture and country.
This book is not just about and for Cambodian women. This book will inspire any women who feels stuck in a rut; or who wonders should I / could I take this risk; what will the people say if I do ….
Girls, go read this book, let it inspire you to soar.

The author, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Thai American and raised in Bangkok, was 26 when he wrote this great collection of short stories.

Short stories are not my first choice of reads but when I do force myself and I find a master short story writer then I can rave about it and wonder why I do not read this genre more often. It really takes a craftsman to create believable characters and tell a multi-layered story in just a few pages. Lapcharoensap is among the best of these craftsmen. The knowledge of human feelings, all genders and ages, that this young man has shown is just amazing. He delves into the complexities of relationships with a wisdom one does not expect from such a young person. 

Just a confession: I did not read the last story / novella. I can deal with human suffering but not animal suffering so I skipped that and the decision was made purely on account of the title.

During my 4 week visit to Thailand I had to urgently return to Taiwan for some administrative work regarding my work permit for 2019. I headed into the first travel agent I saw and there, on the wall behind the travel agent’s desk, were these two photos. They represent two of the four reigns in the book. The one on the left is where the book starts and the one on the right where it ends.