cue the ones they love. Miss Burma By Charmaine Craig, Grove Press, 368 pages, $25
Charmaine Craig uses historical events to painstakingly paint a picture of modern-day Burma inspired by the stories of her mother and grandparents, and her words pay beautiful tribute to these important people in her life. Husband and wife duo Benny and Khin meet in Rangoon, and settle there while it is still a part of the British Empire. Khin is a member of a reviled and persecuted minority group called the Karen, and during the Second World War the pair must go into hiding. Ultimately, the events that follow put them at the centre of great change in the country. The war ends, Aung San rises to power but is then assassinated, and Benny and Khin’s eldest daughter emerges from her turbulent childhood to become Burma’s first beauty queen — just before the country is pulled under by dictatorship. Issues of identity, colonialism, f amily ties and the power and weakness of beauty are explored here in a novel that is mesmerizing and memorable.