Recomended Book – Smile as they Bow

Nu Nu Yi is an author that was unknown to the west until recently. One of her works was held up by censors in Myanmar for over a decade. This book is appealing to anyone who is interested in not only exploring Burmese culture but a rich subculture. The novel is written in a way that the characters seem alive and what is supposed to be a work of fiction feels as though it were just a real as if it were a first hand experience. Every character has problems that real Burmese deal with. The audience gains insight into a number of different walks of life’s psyche as they all merge into one place called Taungbyon festival.

Questions of Burmese society particularly the place of homosexuals in Burmese society are raised. The wives of nats called Natkadaws who are mediums the nats. Nats are supernatural beings which predate Buddhism and although Buddhism is the national religion of Myanmar the practice of the supernatural beings is still practiced along side Buddhism today. This creates an interesting dualism in belief.

Smile as they Bow has given me personally great insight into a world that is not only intriguing but has made me eager to learn more about Burmese religious practice and the religious practices of other groups. The novel is not very long but is not lacking content. It is well worth the read.

Ryan Schuler

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