Two days before Christmas in 1987, at the age of 17, Niromi de Soyza found herself in an ambush as part of a small platoon of militant Tamil Tigers fighting government forces in the bloody civil war that was to engulf Sri Lanka for decades. With her was her lifelong friend, Ajanthi, also aged 17. Leaving behind them their shocked middle-class families, the teenagers had become part of the Tamil Tigers' first female contingent. Equipped with little more than a rifle and a cyanide capsule, Niromi's group managed to survive on their wits in the jungle, facing not only the perils of war but starvation, illness, and growing internal tensions among the militant Tigers. And then events erupted in ways that she could no longer bear.
How was it that this well-educated, mixed-race, middle-class girl from a respectable family came to be fighting with the Tamil Tigers? Today she lives in Sydney with her husband and children; but Niromi de Soyza is not your ordinary woman and this is her compelling story.
In this engaging memoir, de Soyza, who fought in the Sri Lankan civil war as a teenager, offers an account of divided allegiances and single-minded determination. Beginning with her middle-class childhood in a household of educated Tamils and her reasons for wanting to join the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (who opposed the ruling Sinhalese), de Soyza navigates the dense politics of Sri Lanka's ethnic conflicts. Once a Tiger, she must face complicated moral questions, and doesn't shy away from revealing herself as both complicit in, and critical of, the Tigers' tactics even as similar methods from their enemy renew her resolve. Readers will both empathize with and judge de Soyza's experiences in the Tamil struggle as she candidly shares the messy truths of what occurred in the jungle and how she came to leave the Tigers behind. (July)