Pioneer of Myanmar Women Authors

Posted in Lifestyle

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay is revered as one of the most iconic women writers in the history of Myanmar literature, with book lovers cherishing her works till this day. What some people may not know is that she was also a courageous activist who advocated for women’s empowerment.

Her Personal Life

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay was born in 1917 in Bogalay Township, Ayeyarwaddy Region, with the birth name Tin Tin Hlaing. She attended BEHS (2) Dagon until Grade-10 and served as the women's secretary for the Bogalay DohBama Association.

In 1936, she wrote a critique for Myanma Alinn and met her husband, Journal Kyaw U Chit Maung, who was the then chief editor of the publication. They founded Journal Kyaw in 1939, and had three children. After U Chit Maung passed away in 1946, Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay marriedU Aung Zeya in 1959.

  Dr. Khin Lay Myint, a daughter of Daw Ma Ma Lay, accepting the literature award on behalf of her mother (Photo- BBC News Myanmar)Her Masterpieces

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay was widely regarded as the greatest writer of her time, with contemporaries praising her many masterpieces which include:

(1) "Thu Lo Lu (A Man Like Him)": The story of eight years in the life of her husband Journal Kyaw U Chit Maung, whose political analyses helped guide the nation during a turbulent era marked by internal struggles to establish a democracy independent of Britain in the late 1930s and the Japanese Occupation of the 1940s. The memoir reflects Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay's deep admiration and love for her husband. This book was so popular that it had to be reprinted many times.

(2) "Mone Ywae Ma Hu (Not Out Of Hate)" - A story set towards the end of the English colonial period in the 1940s, just before Burmese nationalists allied with the Japanese to drive out the English and establish independence. The main character, Wai Wai, meets a foreign merchant her desire to impress the “foreigner” next door eventually leads her to become a victim of living two lives. Wai Wai also suffers from identity conflict – whether to be “totally Burmese” or to become “colonized Burmese”.

(3) “Thway (Blood)”: A touching story of two siblings, set in the latter half of the 1960's. A Japanese lady, Yumisan, visits Burma to meet her younger half-brother. Her father was a former Japanese soldier stationed in Burma and married to a Burmese woman during World War Two. When the Japanese troops withdrew from Burma, he had to leave his Burmese wife and ten-month old son. Despite the difficulties, Yumisan finally meets her brother, Maung Maung, but she learns that he is ashamed to admit his father is a Japanese and hates his father who abandoned his mother and him.

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay published nearly 20 other books and wrote articles and short stories for monthly magazines. She received two Burmese literary awards for "Mone Ywae Ma Hu" and "Tway Ta Seint Seint." She also used other pen names, such as Yawai Hlaing, Hla Takhine, and Bogalay Ma Tin Hlaing.                                                                  Daw Ma Ma Lay's House (Dawson Bank- Bo Kalay)                                                                             (Photo- BBC News Myanmar)Her Influence

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay was not only a highly accomplished writer, she also played important roles within the Myanmar writing community. She served as vice president of the Women Writers Association in 1947, and as an editor for KaLaungShin Magazine. In addition to publishing Journal Kyaw, she also published the PyiThu Hit Tine journal in 1939. The publishing house was unfortunately closed in later years due to political developments in the country.

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay held several prestigious positions within the Myanmar Writers Association, serving as its president in 1948. She was also the vice president of the World Peace Congress Myanmar in 1955, and chief secretary of the Myanmar Writers Club in 1961. She achieved all of these while raising three children on her own, during a time when women were oppressed. Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay passed away on 6 April 1982 at her home in Yankin Township, Yangon Region.

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay was a true pioneer for women writers, actively advocating for what she believed in without compromising her writing profession or personal life with her family. Her books and life story continue to empower young people, especially women, to overcome life's challenges and pursue their dreams.

Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay's books are still being sold in stores such as City Books & Music. Head down to your nearest City Books & Music store to purchase and read her masterpieces. Her books make great gifts too!



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