Home » Announcements » 2015 Common Reading – In the Shadow of the Banyan, a novel by Vaddey Ratner.

2015 Common Reading – In the Shadow of the Banyan, a novel by Vaddey Ratner.

"In the Shadow of the Banyan" by Vaddey Ratner

“In the Shadow of the Banyan” by Vaddey Ratner

In the Shadow of the Banyan explores the Cambodian people’s resilience and perseverance despite forced exodus into labor camps, torture and starvation brought on by the rise of the Khmer Rouge – which killed at least 1.7 million people – through the eyes of a 7-year-old-girl. Composed with poetic language and mythical tales, the story reveals that young Raami’s privileged existence – protected within the walls of her family’s royal compound – is far from what others were experiencing in the cities and countryside across Cambodia in the mid 1970s. But as the communist revolution sweeps the country, their royal bloodline cannot insulate them from the rebellion, and Raami’s family joins in the fight to survive.


Published in 2012, the book mirrors Ratner’s experiences as a young girl who lived through the communist uprising in Cambodia.


“By viewing the story through the eyes of a young character, students will be able to make a connection to historical events that may be far from their experiences, but in a way that allows them to envision themselves in that story,” says Director of the University Honors Program Becky Spritz, a member of the Common Reading Committee. “Fiction allows us to not distance ourselves from events that we’re reading about, and instead, to connect and be pulled into the story.”


In choosing a work of fiction that chronicles real events, the Common Reading Committee hopes to instill an appreciation of global perspectives and different cultures while exposing students to social justice issues that are endemic around the world, Spritz says.


The Common Reading program is an important part of the First Year Experience at RWU. First Year Experience programming will be focused on encouraging students to experience academic engagement inside and outside the classroom, learn to think critically, value service and civic engagement, and use services and resources that will make them successful student scholars.


Throughout the academic year, the University will explore In the Shadow of the Banyan through a series of events, including a visit to Roger Williams University from author Vaddey Ratner on Tuesday, October 13, at 7 p.m.


(Special thanks to the Common Reading Committee who were involved in the selection of this book: faculty members Becky Spritz, W. Brett McKenzie, Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, Jeremy Campbell and Paola Prado; as well as Feinstein College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Eisinger. via Allison Chase Padula, Associate Dean of Student Life)


Be sure to check out the exhibit in the University Library lobby. It showcases the last 10 years of Common Reading texts. The exhibit will run until October 19th.