Wendy Law-Yone is distinctive among American writers for her intimate knowledge of life and politics in Burma (or Myanmar) and for her penetrating psychological portrayal of the travails of Southeast Asian émigrés in America. Born in Mandalay, Burma, she grew up in Rangoon, the capital. Her father, Edward Law-Yone, was a prominent nationalist and the publisher of Burma’s leading English-language newspaper. When General Ne Win staged a military coup in 1962, Edward Law-Yone was imprisoned for six years; after he was freed, he organized guerrilla resistance against the military dictatorship, then became a leader of the government-in-exile in Bangkok. As may be expected, such political events swirling around the family left an indelible impression on Wendy Law-Yone’s creative imagination, and her works return repeatedly to military coups, guerrilla insurgency, and fugitive migration.
In her youth, Law-Yone had demonstrated musical promise, and when she finished high school (at the same time as her father’s arrest), she was offered a Soviet state scholarship to study piano in Leningrad and an alternative award to study music at Mills College in Oakland, California. Because of her father’s detention, Law-Yone could not avail herself of either opportunity, her passport having been canceled. She languished for the next four years in Burma; she then married an American journalist and again attempted to leave. Instead, she was jailed, and she spent two weeks in solitary confinement. In May, 1967, however, she was able to make her way out of Burma and work as a freelance writer while bringing up twins in Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. In 1973, she arrived in the United States, where her father had resided since 1971. In 1975, she received a bachelor’s degree in modern languages and comparative literature from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, obtained a divorce, and moved to Washington, D.C. She has two children from her second marriage (to attorney Charles A. O’Connor III) in addition to the twins from her first marriage.
The imaginative matrix of Law-Yone’s fiction draws life largely from her experience of growing up in Burma under a repressive regime and then of migrating to the United States. Informing the action of her works are feminist...
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