Item description for Down the Rat Hole: Adventures Underground on Burma's Frontiers by Edith Mirante...
A new memoir of the authors journeys among the brave indigenous peoples of some of Asias most remote and violent regions. Knowledgeably obsessed with Burmas struggle for freedom, American artist/activist Mirante breaks laws and infiltrates borders, in impassioned journeys of discovery that take her through China, India, Laos, and chaotic Bangladesh. Down the Rat Hole is a wild and exotic headlong plunge into a hidden world of guerrilla warfare, heroin and jade trading, the AIDS pandemic, rainforest destruction, strikes and rioting, and one of the worst natural disasters of the 20th Century.
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Story of battered yet resilient individuals and societies. Oct 7, 2006
Down The Rat Hole: Adventures Underground on Burma's Frontiers is the memoir of American author, artist, and activist Edith Mirante, who defied laws and infiltrated the borders to travel through China, India, Laos, and the chaos in Bangladesh. Obsessed with Burma's multitude of cultures and ongoing struggle for freedom, she became witness to guerrilla warfare, heroin and jade trading, the AIDS pandemic, rainforest destruction, strikes and rioting, and natural disaster. A handful of color photographs illustrate her story of battered yet resilient individuals and societies.
Adventure with Benefits Nov 10, 2005
Edith Mirante's "Down The Rat Hole" is the best kind of adventure story: as we voyage with this black belt, collage making, irony sensing delightfully brave woman, we make clean get aways, relish successful disquise, mingle with murderers and develop tribal allies who, sadly, are later murdered. Socializing with war lords, drug lords and human rights activists and guerrillas and other agitators for peace and justice in South East Asia, Mirante picks a remarkable path, through mossy rainforest as well as waterfalls of trash. Mirante displays what could be viewed as an amazing experiment and illustration of an American ideal: this writer/researcher feels every pinprick of the Burmese heroin addicts, every hole cut into the skin of cultural possibilities, but she isn't afraid. Acting always as diplomat, yet everything about her is unofficial. This fearless approach to travel and intercultural communications takes her through a cyclone, where afterwards, "Tun and I wandered around in the mud, talking to people, taking some pictures, and the storm survivors with their gracious innate hospitality gave us coconut milk, or tea. If they had nothing else, they gave us water, germ-laden disaster water, which we drank and it did not hurt us."
Mirante guards her sense of humor as the valuable weapon that it is, injecting perspective into the difficult relations between tribes which despite their own best interests (and Mirante's soldierly yearning), can't seem to get it together to build a unified front of opposition against the brutal Tatmadaw dictatorship of Burma/Myanmar.
As a mother of two teenage girls, I'm giving this to my daughters (along with Julia Butterfly Hill's books). Clearly, wimps just don't have as much fun as brave people, and so Mirante is no wimp. This particular little volume is noteworthy also for it's backpack-able size. She's included great color photographs, and typical of her style, there is not even one tiny little image that includes her.
The Kachin's can't seem to get over the idea that this amazing Rambo lady of marriageable age isn't quite married at the time of the story. Here, she does describe herself, and in so doing describes so much of this culture, as she's being dressed up for a ceremony with the Jinghpaw.
"Lu Ra borrowed the outfit for me to wear. The Jinghpaw women's garments were so elaborate that they had become heirlooms, brought out only for special occasions like weddings and dance performances. I put on the knee-length woven red sarong and matching leggings, and the black velvet jacket trimmed with silver disks the size of silver dollars. Then I was trimmed like a Christmas tree by Lu Ra, Ja Seng Hkawn and Mai Mai, one of the girls from the War Office. They pinned my hair up and tied an embroidered headdress over it. Necklaces of silver fringes and silver circlets, plus pearls and coral, wound around my throat. Hoops of rattan rested on my hips and a red sash bound my waist. Somebody's pink lipstick, a swoop of eyeliner, and I was worthy of photo-ops. I posed with the Kachin Women's Association members, and the KIO Central Committee. For my `Kachin wedding photograph,' they produced the only bachelor around who was older than me, a stout genial officer well into his sixties. A least he was inches taller than me, unlike most Kachin men who leveled out below my imposing 5'3".
By getting to know Burma, Mirante finds out a lot about all of us: that, regarding `anger, brutality, addiction...everybody has something of that sort," yet women can be powerful. A fantastically brave voyage into a shaky war to defend human rights, with the added drama of being entirely true.