Baldwin Library Club consists of a group of writers and young readers who have been interested in improving their English through the reading of fiction and non-fiction books every month since January 2008. The book club discusses a book selected each month by club members. They meet at 4:30 on the last Wednesday of each month in the library.
I read about the above mentioned book club from a pamphlet and I decided to join the club to expand by my knowledge by reading selected books instead of limiting myself by only reading fantasy, crime, action thrillers, and science-fiction. However, there was no discussion about books that day because of the panel discussion in English with famous Myanmar writers and the award ceremony to celebrate the second anniversary.
I didn’t know which authors were coming, but I was overjoyed to see my favorite author, Jue, sitting among the other judges. There was also Dr. Khin Maung Nyo, Phay Myint, and Grace who is also known as Swe Zin Htike. She wasn’t an author, but she was one of the judges. I don’t mean to be bias, but my main attention was focused on Jue and I even noted down what she had said.
When she introduced herself, she said that she has been called many names including living together writer, feminist writer, and plastic bag writer. She has gone through phases in her writing periods. At first, she wrote love stories. Then she wrote about gender issues and social issues after seeing many women being faced with domestic violence and domestic influence. She wanted women to become independent and speak their inner voices. When her first novel, “Remembrance (A Hmat Ta Ya)” came out, critics wrote that her writings were poisonous. But due to these criticisms, she became more famous. She later on moved on to environmental issue and then education. She’s in her fifth phase now and she’s focusing on humanitarian projects. She has been writing for more than 20 years, and her last novel was written two years ago. Now she is in the process of writing a new novel.
One of the audience asked her a question concerning with a quote from one of her short story. He wasn’t quite sure of the title, but the author recognized it as an extract from “Mya’s Moon (Mya Yae La)”. In that story, Mya commented to her husband that in his city, when people smile, their eyes don’t smile and only their lips smile. (Mya was from the countryside and she was living in the city with her husband.) The questioner asked Jue whether this extract was based on a theory by a French professor. She replied that what Mya meant in the story was that people in the city don’t smile from their heart. Mya’s feelings were reflected from her own feelings and also from her friend’s feeling. So, Mya was both she and her friend, but she’s not sure which side of Mya was she and which side was her friend.
Another person asked her where she got her encouragement when she was living in a narrow-minded community. She replied that she got her encouragements from books. She was influenced by Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay’s “She (Thu)”, Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”, and Kyi Aye’s novels. Likewise, Jue’s stories have influenced Myanmar women. I haven’t met anyone aside from my mother who doesn’t like Jue. My mother doesn’t hate her, but she’s not a big fan either. She always says that we are wasting money by buying her novels. We used to collect her books whenever we could find them. We now have 26 books, if “Yay Hmaw Thee”, which has only two short stories, is also included. We only need a few more books to complete our collection, like the great novel “Women Who Are Like the Sea (Pin Lae Hnit Thu Taw Main Ma Myar)”. I also need to buy “Remembrance” which had been republished many months ago. There are some of her books that I like, but I didn’t want to buy because they are about movie reviews. Even so, those reviews were well written and my own reviews that I use to post in my Myanmar version blog had been influenced by her.
Jue is my idol and her stories have often influenced my way of thinking. Not all of her books are about love stories. Some like “My Beloved City”, “My Beloved Country”, and “My Beloved World” made people become more aware of environmental issues. Jue commented that people usually think that she is the pioneer to write about environmental issues, but there had been other writers before her. She said that she wants to give a message to young readers to become independent and speak out their inner voices. I think that’s why she wrote “(I) Didn’t Tell You That I Would Be Waiting (Saung Nay Mae Lo Ma Pyaw Lite Buu”.
Even though I really like Jue, I didn’t ask her any questions nor introduced myself as her big fan because it’s in my nature to watch from afar without saying anything. Well, I did have a question to ask, but the discussion had ended and I didn’t want to ask her personally since it wasn’t that much important. I only wanted to know whether the authors were interested in writing children novels. I have been thinking of writing for children, but I don’t know how to write novels and I lack creativity. I think I am better suited for writing translations. I’m not a good translator so I need to practice a lot.
I made a new friend that evening. She was sitting next to me and she didn’t have anyone to talk to. She told me that she has only read two books by Jue. I recommend her to read “(I) Didn’t Tell You that I Would Be Waiting” since she wants to work for NGOs. I’m going to meet her again on Saturday at a conversation club. She is afraid to go on her own and I was planning to join anyway.
The description for the Baldwin Library Club has been taken from “American Center Clubs” pamphlet.