Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Angry Letter From "Burma"

I got a two-page letter in the mail recently, enclosed in a large manila envelope. Here's an excerpt:
Dear Mitali Perkins,

Through reading your novel Bamboo People, we have discovered that you included false accusations and stories of our government. These include purporting that children are "kidnapped," tortured or otherwise harmed by our government. After careful research, we find that these rumors are not true, not right, and a deliberate attack to our government. Your book has been placed under a censored list, and the current copy is banned as of 6/9/10.

As a result of you having tried to attack our government and deliberately cause harm and chaos to our people, the Foreign Affairs office of the government has revised your privileges in this country. Your current visa may be revoked, since if you do come to Burma, it will be for the purpose of distributing your book and tantalizing our people with false ideas. Be warned that the Government of Burma may pursue legal and disciplinary action against you if you try to distribute this book. All laws and policies are strictly enforced, so it is recommended that you immediately stop the publication of this book, destroy it, and not attempt to attack our government again.
Your writing, however, shows some promise, so we suggest you try to continue and focus on other topics that would benefit the Burmese people, such as creative writing of our long and traditional culture.

Thank you,

Akyab Orwell
I'll confess that my heart skipped a beat. Thankfully, as I pulled out the rest of the papers in the envelope, I discovered that this was the work of a brilliant 8th grader in Ms. Suzanne Steckert's class at Mt. Pleasant Middle School. Whew. That kid has a bright future in propaganda or fiction. Maybe both. Best wishes, Mr. "Orwell."

24 comments:

  1. And here I was all set to congratulate you on your first book banning!

    Well done, 8th-grader. That combination of threatening and patronizing is impressive.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, what a wild thing to receive! I was so shocked at first, but I'm glad no Burmese officials will be after you or your book.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, wow! What a shock that must have been!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow. I was pulled in too, except for when he started to praise your writing.

    xo,
    SL

    ReplyDelete
  5. Whoa, I was totally taken, and TERRIFIED for you, man. What a bright future that kid has; that's some serious writing chops!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was also going to congratulate you. Burma's junta is one of the most barbaric regimes in the world. If my books were banned by them I would write back a quote from the movie V for Vendetta:"Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof."

    Great work, nameless student! Your creativity will get you far.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wild! I particularly liked the suggestion to stop publication and destroy the book, followed up by the note that your writing shows some promise, if only you'd use it for good rather than rumor-mongering and evil. :) What a cool/terrifying fan letter.

    ReplyDelete
  8. My heart skipped a beat, too, on your behalf! What an excellent writer who clearly grasps the realities of Burma.BAMBOO PEOPLE obviously impacted this young person.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I know! "Purporting" sounded so bureaucratically real!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow!

    I visited the teacher's website--how great that she has a page of reading suggestions for parents too!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love that Burma accuses you of being "tantalizing." Well done! (And I, too, was worried for you for a moment there!)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow. Impressive. How great that they are reading your book and thinking so deeply about the situation in Burma.

    I confess, I was a bit scared for you, too, when I started reading it. This makes me think about an interview I heard with Toni Morrison on NPR in which she focuses on Writing's Power and Censorship. Have a listen if you get a chance.

    http://www.onpointradio.org/media-player?url=http://www.onpointradio.org/2009/05/toni-morrison-2&title=Toni+Morrison&pubdate=2009-05-28&segment=1

    ReplyDelete
  13. That link I posted may not work for everyone. Try this:

    http://www.onpointradio.org/2009/05/toni-morrison-2

    ReplyDelete
  14. Astha A.4:35 PM

    Wow! That was a really professional-sounding letter! They're reading Bamboo People in Burma!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love this! Congrats to this 8th grader on a writing job well done!

    ReplyDelete
  16. WWWWWWOOOOOWWWWW! That is one convincing and impressive 8th grader!

    My heart skipped a beat too when I read that.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow! I was halfway out of my chair, set to go grab the book off the shelves and show it to the reference librarians as soon as I finished reading. Very impressive writing!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Okay, THAT scared me.
    ::shivers::

    Geez. Kids these days. Brilliant, they are.

    ReplyDelete
  19. whoa -- "Mr. Orwell" got me too. kudos to student, teacher, and author!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Akyab had me until the "Orwell" last name, although I did think the "shows promise" part was a bit goofy. I'm juggling a related issue myself as I'm revising an older nonfiction manuscript, and I really, really should have caught on a lot sooner: any official would have used "Myanmar" instead of Burma!

    ReplyDelete
  21. While reading it, I thought how cool - yor are a wanted woman thanks to a great story.

    When I got to the end, the letter was still pretty cool, just a whole lot safer.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Wow - that kid nailed the voice of an indignant government official! I was totally convinced, even though the last paragraph threw me a bit.

    Have you thought of what you would have done if the letter had been REAL?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Did you know that Stanford Travel / Study Programs is leading a trip to Burma next year? Seriously - I heard a presentation at a governing board meeting last weekend. You should connect with them, and at minimum have the travelers read your book.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Goodness - I was completely taken in by that! That letter is a keeper!

    ReplyDelete