Det, Chang and Lek are young university students living in Thailand during the 1970s. It is a turbulent time for the country’s politics: student-led protests in 1973 succeeded in (briefly) overthrowing the country’s military dictatorship. Det, Chang and Lek—three students from very different backgrounds—navigate the country’s changing politics from the streets of Bangkok to the jungles of northern Thailand.
This is the premise behind A Good True Thai, the debut novel by Sunisa Manning, and a finalist for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize for Southeast Asian writers. In this interview, Sunisa and podcast host Nicholas Gordon discuss the historical setting of her book, and how much her characters represent the dynamics and emotions of Thailand’s student activists. They also discuss the process of writing historical fiction, and some of the parallels one might draw with recent protests, with reference to Sunisa’s recent piece for Nikkei Asia, “Thailand’s punctured monarchy”.
Sunisa Manning was born and raised in Bangkok by Thai and American parents. She went to Brown University and now lives in California. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Rumpus and other places. You can follow her on Twitter at @sunisasn.