Dear Readers,

I have always believed that stories can enlarge our world and connect us to one another in surprising ways, and I feel wonderfully enriched to hear from readers in all corners of the world who share how my writing has touched your lives.  This not only gives me a different perspective on my own work but also a window into your personal stories.

Whether on FacebookGoodreads, Instagram, Twitter, or on your book group blog, please continue to share!

Along with the interviews, feature stories and my own short writing you'll find on this site, here are a few resources to spark discussion. 

And don’t hesitate to send me an email to let me know your thoughts.

With warm wishes and gratitude,


Vaddey with the Dutch edition of In the Shadow of the Banyan

Vaddey with the Dutch edition of In the Shadow of the Banyan

The NEA Big Read

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery...

NEA Big Read annually supports approximately 75 dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read selection. Each community program that receives an NEA Big Read grant—which ranges between $5,000 and $20,000—is also provided with resources, outreach materials, and training on various aspects such as working local partners, developing public relations strategies, and leading book discussions and Q&As.

By drawing communities together and asking them to consider a powerful story such as Silver Sparrow or In the Shadow of the Banyan, the Big Read invites participants to see themselves in unfamiliar narratives, voice their opinions, expand their perspective, and ultimately, embrace their role as citizens.
— National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works Blog

Read the NEA Arts Work Blog announcing
In the Shadow of the Banyan as a Big Read title 

Resources for Readers: In the Shadow of the Banyan

from the NEA Big ReaD

from Simon & Schuster

Resources for Educators

In the Shadow of the Banyan has been adopted as the common reading for first-year students at institutions as diverse as Georgetown University, Kalamazoo College, the University of Arizona Honors Program and Roger Williams University.  It is read in high schools and university courses on creative writing, human rights, history, ethnicity and identity.  You'll find testimonials from past events on this site.  To request review copies of In the Shadow of the Banyan or Music of the Ghosts for course adoption or first-year reading program consideration, please contact Simon & Schuster Education and Library Marketing.

Views from around the web

“Ratner certainly had the option to tell the story a nonfiction account, but opted for fiction instead. . . Does fiction allow the writer—who was very young at the time the real events took place—the opportunity through imagination to get closer to the emotional truth? Yes, perhaps. Ironically, it might also allow her to get closer to the factual truth.” —Edward Nawotka, Publishing Perspectives


“Out of the terror she lived, she created a monument of grace and conviction, and as such, her words stand as an act of resistance.” —Naomi Benaron, Her Circle


“A potent example of the resiliency of the human spirit. . . Ratner's eloquent story. . . is a strong reminder of the importance and power of our own unique oral and written history, as a means of staying connected with our culture, our loved ones, and our very identity.” —Michelle Langston, BookEndBabes


“We witness Raami's transformation, mourn her loss of innocence and celebrate the strength and courage she develops.” —Suzanne McGee, Uncommon Reading


“I know those towns. I’ve met those people. And I’ve seen the damage still reeling from a genocide that ended over 30 years ago. Reading her childhood memories, tarred by the Khmer Rouge violence, is awe-inspiring.” —Told in Vain


“Raami is such a strong girl, one to be admired for her strength of character and her ability to transcend the horrific tragedy she lived through and still find beauty in her world.” —Misbehavin' Librarian


“I’m very glad that Ratner chose Raami as the narrator, as the innate hopefulness of a child is necessary to counteract the atrocities encountered within the book.” —Lost in a Great Book


“While her story is brutal, and brutally honest, it is also beautiful and strong. This is a very special book that will inspire you without sentimentality or platitudes.” —Bethanne Patrick, BookRiot


“I am deeply grateful for being given the opportunity to read Ratner’s book and believe In the Shadow of the Banyan would make for an excellent, albeit difficult, discussion group pick.” —Rundpinne


“The author said that she wanted to write this book to give voice to the memory of her father who she lost and to all those who were silenced in this horror. I commend her for bravery in reliving this horror to put this story out there.” —Peeking Between the Pages

“I loved In the Shadow of the Banyan. It may cover a difficult topic but it's an important one for us as human beings and Ratner's writing is simply beautiful.” —Tiny Library


“The novel is an utterly engaging portrait of familial love and sacrifice, a bleak story that manages to retain a sense of warmth and optimism through the eyes of precocious young Raami. Teens who enjoy dystopian fiction may be surprised to find a historical novel with familiar themes of violence, destruction, and cruelty in the name of a so-called better society.” —Paula Gallagher, School Library Journal


“A novel of beauty and pathos told with the language of dreams and memory,In the Shadow of the Banyan. . . resonates with truth and... rare emotional strength.” —Leah Sims, Portland Book Review


“The characters jump off of the page and into your heart. . . I defy you to forget these people.” —Kathy Glackin, Book Diary


“The story... told through the eyes of a child, nearly broke me. But it is a story that needs to be shared, because many people (myself included) don’t know much about this period of history and we MUST know these things. . . Your heart will be forever changed by the experience.” —Book Addiction


“History and popular culture tell us that a child’s perspective is not worth that of an elder’s. To those who subscribe to that belief, I challenge you to read In the Shadow of the Banyan.” —Amina Elahi, Paper/Plates


“More than a novel, more than a memoir, more than an anthology of poetry,In the Shadow of the Banyan is unlike anything I have ever read and will stay with me for some time.” —Alison's Book Marks


“Ratner’s consciousness of the value and weight of words is coupled with a profound sense of the importance of storytelling, which runs through the book.” —Ann Morgan, A Year of Reading the World


“The prose is complex, but the figurative language suits a child’s perspective. Even in the absence of understanding, Raami’s observations are poignant and credible. . . In the Shadow of the Banyan offers readers the power to transform and transport, weaving a magic spell that terrifies and astonishes.” —Buried in Print


"The author has succeeded in taking this sad chapter in her country’s history. . . sharing memories and thoughts that can never be erased and putting them into a new form, this literary work, which we are privileged to [have] shared."—Word by Word