My Tree (ကျွန်မ၏သစ်ပင်) by Juu (ဂျူး) is story of a young man and his relationship with an elder woman who helps him to become a singer. The story involves his adolescent life with his father and his teenage love, too.
After an argument with his father, Oak Soe, an aspiring singer and song writer, left his hometown and started working random jobs in Yangon. Later he worked as a driver for a woman, Daw Ni Ni Zaw, and she discovered his musical talent. From that, his music career escalated and became a successful artist. His strained relationship with his father and the unsettling relationship with Daw Ni Ni Zaw were meticulously written and it was such a satisfying read.
Apart from the writer’s relentless use of her weak translations of lyrics from some early 90’s english songs—regardless of the storyline they didn’t fit in—in between, it was actually a beautiful read. The relationship between the protagonist and the older female was poignantly crafted with such subtlety. I believe she had to tone down her writing because at that time, the Board of Literary Censorship in Myanmar was very conservative and can be quite extreme, too. So when it comes to portraying the relationship between two unmarried couple, she had to be subtle.
Despite the protagonist being an adolescent male, the title ‘My Tree’ was named with feminine pronoun which resonates beautifully in the story. Personally, I feel this book has one of the most pervasive female characters I have read in Burmese books. Like a kind mother, she cared for him; like a good employer, she cultivated his music career; like a considerate lover, she put up with his passive-aggressive behaviours. She is so giving.
I normally prefer reading Juu’s short stories to her novels but this book is my absolute favourite of hers. I took a detour from my current read yesterday afternoon and picked up this book for the umpteenth time. Simply because I feel like it. Re-reading this book brought me a mix of joy and sadness as it has always been.