International

For Us Surrender is Out of the Question

A story from Burma's never-ending war
A story from Burma's never-ending war, by Mac McClelland

There are bad things going on in Burma that you don’t know about. There's a civil war (the world's longest running, in fact) raging between the government and ethnic rebels. A large percentage of the United States' heroin used to come from Burma. And there's the small matter that America helped make it all possible with overt funding and the CIA's very first secret war.

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Of course, you wouldn't know any of this because Burma is a country nearly shut out from the rest of the world, with the only footage of the carnage coming via groups of young, tough, booze-loving refugees who run into war zones to collect it. And with these refugees is where we find Mac McClelland embedded in her staggering debut, For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question.

McClelland weaves a narrative that is part investigative journalism, part popular history, and part memoir of a midwestern, twenty-something woman living with refugee activists on the Burma-Thailand border. Driven by the community McClelland is illegally aiding — a small group of brave young men and women — For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question is an urgent and fascinating look at a weary conflict, told by a bright, new voice.

McClelland's reporting from Thailand was supported by The Investigative Fund, now known as Type Investigations. Read her Investigative Fund story published in Mother Jones.

“This is a book alternately poignant and raucous, angry and heartbreaking; a reader could not ask for a more vivid introduction to the long-overlooked plight of Burma's Karen people. Mac McClelland's reporting is very much from-the-ground-up, far livelier than we will ever get from the average foreign correspondent.”
—Adam Hochschild, author of Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves

“McClelland tells the story of [this] complex political situation so that it is not only understandable, but meaningful. For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question makes a faraway group of refugees feel like close friends. For a book about such a dire situation, it is a surprisingly lighthearted and entertaining read.”
—Ann Friedman, The American Prospect

“A story you almost certainly haven't heard, but should — not only of Burma's blighted history, but of the hope and hopelessness of refugees from the world's longest-running war. Told with passion and wit.”
—Justin Elliott, Talking Points Memo

“Gritty, informed, passionate... McClelland's gonzo sensibility, big heart, and keen eye for weird details bring this tale of inhuman cruelty and human resilience vividly alive.”
—Gary Kamiya, Executive Editor of Salon

About the reporter

Mac McClelland

Mac McClelland

Mac McClelland is an award-winning journalist and author of Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story.

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