The story my Burmese family told itself went like this: We’d fled the only home we’d known to escape oppression and danger, only to find ourselves in America, strangers in a strange land. But we did it. We made it. And from our vantage across the ocean, we continued to fight for Burma, to support its virtuous freedom fighters with our voices and resources. We were on the other side of an ocean, the right side of history.
These stories were so often repeated, so well worn, that they had very nearly faded into the background, until I noticed a snag—and decided to pull. “We had an Indian cook who made the most delicious curry,” my grandmother often wistfully recalled when speaking of her life back home in Burma. But she offered—always—this caveat: “And he robbed us blind.”