Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Miss Burma

by Charmaine Craig

Set against the vibrant backdrop of Burma from the 1940s to the 1960s, Miss Burma is a powerful and epic novel that follows one prominent Burmese family struggling to overcome war and political repression while trying to build a meaningful life.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 384
  • Publication Date March 09, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2768-6
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 368
  • Publication Date May 02, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2645-0
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date May 02, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-8952-3
  • US List Price $26.00

About The Book

Miss Burma tells the story of modern-day Burma through the eyes of Benny and Khin, husband and wife, and their daughter Louisa. After attending school in Calcutta, Benny settles in Rangoon, then part of the British Empire, and falls in love with Khin, a woman who is part of a long-persecuted ethnic minority group, the Karen. World War II comes to Southeast Asia, and Benny and Khin must go into hiding in the eastern part of the country during the Japanese Occupation, beginning a journey that will lead them to change the country’s history.

After the war, the British authorities make a deal with the Burman nationalists, led by Aung San, whose party gains control of the country. When Aung San is assassinated, his successor ignores the pleas for self-government of the Karen people and other ethnic groups, and in doing so sets off what will become the longest-running civil war in recorded history. Benny and Khin’s eldest child, Louisa, has a danger-filled, tempestuous childhood and reaches prominence as Burma’s first beauty queen soon before the country falls to dictatorship. As Louisa navigates her newfound fame, she is forced to reckon with her family’s past, the West’s ongoing covert dealings in her country, and her own loyalty to the cause of the Karen people.

Based on the story of the author’s mother and grandparents, Miss Burma is a captivating portrait of how modern Burma came to be and of the ordinary people swept up in the struggle for self-determination and freedom.

Tags Literary


“Rich and layered, a complex weaving of national and personal trauma . . . Craig has written a captivating second novel that skillfully moves from moments of quiet intimacy and introspection to passages portraying the swift evolution of political events as multiple groups and nations vie for control of Burma’s future. Mesmerizing and haunting.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Spanning generations and multiple dictators, Craig’s epic novel provides a rich, complex account of Burma and its place within the larger geopolitical theater . . . The language and the images unfold with grace, horror, and intimacy.” —Publishers Weekly

“[An] epic new novel . . . distinctive for its representation of a voice not often documented in history. Craig vividly illustrates the intertwining of the political and the personal . . . Fans of Jan-Philipp Sendker’s The Art of Hearing Heartbeats will find this to be a darker, more nuanced story . . . Readers with an eye to world history and current events will find this novel riveting.” —Library Journal

“A sweeping novel of Burma and its complicated history, told from the perspective of people whose voices have been systematically erased from the official record. Charmaine Craig writes about war and exile with an exquisite mix of tenderness and intelligence. A brilliant book.” —Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account

“Charmaine Craig wields powerful and vivid prose to illuminate a country and a family trapped not only by war and revolution, but also by desire and loss. Both epic and intimate, Miss Burma is a compelling and disturbing trip through Burmese history and politics.” —Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer

Miss Burma is a riveting portrayal of human resourcefulness and heroism, and of their inadequacy before the great cataclysms of history. This engrossing novel movingly affirms—in its characters, but also in the elegance and fineness of its craft–the perseverance of dignity in the face of our helplessness.” —Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

Miss Burma is a book which resonates with meaning, of how we are all actors in our histories and the histories of our nations, it disrupts our settled sense that the past is the past, and shows how it reaches forward to touch the future. It is a powerful, moving and important novel.” —Aminatta Forna, author of The Hired Man

“In beautiful and evocative prose, Miss Burma reminds us of the many ways that war and political repression can scar generations. Yet the real wonder of this powerful book rests in its strong belief that love and determination—and even loss—can help illuminate a path out of the darkest moments. A gem of a novel.” —Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze

Miss Burma is a wonderfully written novel that spans the history of Burma (Myanmar) from World War II to the late sixties. For those of us who had not thought that much about their history it was a revelation to get a beginning grasp of the complicated back-story of a semi-secret country. But the book is much more than a history primer. It is the well-told story of an amazing family that survived a life that would have (and did) crush many families. The writing is filled with the beauty that surrounded the real people who lived and live in this remote corner of the world. Their ability to enjoy that beauty in the midst of the horrible events of their lives is truly inspiring. Charmaine Craig is a voice that I expect we will hear much more from.” —Steve Bercu, BookPeople, Austin, TX


There she is, Louisa at fifteen, stepping onto a makeshift stage at the center of Rangoon’s Aung San Stadium in 1956. Give yourself to them, she thinks. And immediately one hand goes to her hip, her head tilts upward, her awareness descends to her exposed thighs, to her too muscular calves, now in plain view of the forty thousand spectators seated in the darkening stands.

Give them what they need, her mother told her. And Louisa understands that her mother meant more than a view of her gold high-heeled sandals (on loan from a friend and pinching her toes), more than the curves accentuated by her white one-piece (copied from a photo of Elizabeth Taylor). Her mother meant something like a vision of hope. Yet what is Louisa’s appearance on this garish stage, during the final round of the Miss Burma contest, but a picture of something dangerous. She is approximately naked, her gleaming suit approximately concealing what should be private. She is approximately innocent, pushing a hip to one side, close to plummeting into indignity.

A tide of applause draws her farther into the light.

She pivots, presenting the judges and the spectators beyond them with a view of her behind (ample thanks to her Jewish father, who sits with her mother somewhere in the stands nearby). Before her now are the other finalists, nine of them, grouped in the shadows upstage. Their smiles are fixed, their eyes gleaming with outrage. “The special contender,” the government paper recently called her. How strange to be dubbed “the image of unity and integration” when she has wanted only to go unremarked–she, the mixed-breed, who is embarrassed by mentions of beauty and race. “We never win the games we mean to,” her father once told her.

Author Tour Dates



University of California Fullerton
Fullerton, CA

Alpha – A Day of Authors

9:00 am - 3:00 pm


Pasadena Hilton
168 S. Los Robles Ave.
Pasadena, CA

Pasadena Festival of Women Authors

9:30 am - 2:30 pm