Set in Thailand’s turbulent time in the 70’s, A Good True Thai tells a striking story of three students from different backgrounds. Sunisa Manning illustrates the intricacies of class, racial and ideological through the historical events of the student movement.
Det is a kind-hearted youth and a royal descent. His late mother was the daughter of King Chulalongkorn and his father is a commoner. Det encounters Chang at the officer training camp and they become best friends. Chang is a student leader who works to see a better change in the country. Lek, a daughter of Chinese immigrants, is passionate about writing and wants to become a writer like Chit Phumisak (renowned communist revolutionary). Det meets Lek at the university and fall in love.
Inspired by his friends, Det later joins them in the student movements as long as they don’t offend the monarchy. When Lek tries to reprint a controversial yearbook cover which criticizes the king—Det’s grandfather, Det is furious but he tries to save her from being expelled and jailed. He thinks his royal status can somehow shield his girlfriend. Det does’t know that the privileged royal status is passed through the father and since his father is a commoner, Det’s royal entitlement won’t be continued unless he marries a woman from another branch of royal family. When he finds out about it, he’s confused and questions his identity. When Lek and Chang are leaving the university to join the communist group in northern Thailand, he follows them.
In the remote camp, three of them are assigned to different roles. Det is forced to voice out and call other royals to join the movement. Det refuses cause he knows his status is not real and scared that Lek might leave him when she finds out. Unbeknownst to Det’s issue with his identity, Lek keeps questioning his commitment to the movement. After some times, she begins to doubt about her attachment to Det. She also wonders what she and the other activists have really accomplished, as well. Despite all the disagreements amongst the friends on the ideas of what it means to be an activist, they work together for the betterment of their country.
This book gives me an opportunity to learn more about the political history of Thailand in the 70’s. Through the real events of the student protests, political coups and massacres, the writer gives a poignant tale of the youths. Manning invites the reader to discover the complexity of issues in the country’s political unrests. Various political ideas are discussed in the book, too. It features one’s love and loyalty for the country. One’s conflicting thoughts for both national and personal crisis are affectingly told through unforgettable characters.
It is an important time in my country, too, and I had troubled with reading books since the 1st February. In the midst of disturbing news, it’s not easy to focus on reading. When I’m not occupied with a few volunteering tasks and occasional protest in the streets, I spent most of my time on following the news across the social media which is unhealthy but I can’t help.
After reading Unfree Speech by Joshua Wong, I had a small feeling that I could get out from my reading slump. But I keep questioning the enjoyment or whatever satisfying factor I received from reading. The guilt is there for not fighting enough, not involving enough and not doing enough for those out there being detained and the fallen heroes. What the military did is more than a coup d’état. It’s a coup de cœur, too. I shall not let them rob my joy from reading. So I post this review after considering multiple times whether it is being thoughtful for the others or not.