Thisuri Wanniarachchi

Bennington College

Location: Bennington, VT

"I decided to write, to try to give my generation a voice for what we were experiencing."

I grew up with the Sri Lankan civil war. So did another 6 million Sri Lankan children of my generation.

The war was my childhood. It’s all I remember. I remember the sound of the bombs that went of every other month in my city and the sound of ambulance sirens that followed. I remember seeing my brother’s entire school mourn when their hockey team was killed together with other civilians in a suicide attack in the heart of Colombo. I remember how even the sound of a balloon pop gave my classmates goose bumps. I remember the metal detector that welcomed me into my preschool and the bomb evacuation drill that I memorized as I entered my teenage years. And most of all I remember feeling voiceless, lost, and trapped in a war that was already smoking outside the hospital window when I was born.

Like many who grew up in Sri Lanka during this time, I struggled to make sense of being rushed out of school through explosion sites, witnessing burning corpses on the sidewalks, and waiting for weeks at a time by the telephone to hear from my father, a Sri Lankan Army officer away on duty during the war.

I knew that, in this chaos, I had to find my voice. So I decided to write, to try to give my generation a voice for what we were experiencing.

My first English novel was published when I was fourteen years old. Set in the early 2000s in the Sri Lankan civil war, it’s the story of my generation in Sri Lanka. It went onto make me the youngest Sri Lankan to write a local bestseller and win the National Literary Award for Best novel of the year 2010.

My writing has been read my millions of people, both in Sri Lanka and around the world. My book is in its fifth edition/print and while no writer can heal a traumatized generation, I feel that I have given them a voice.

Never let the violence that surrounds you intimidate you. Find your voice. And when you're ready, write it out, speak it out, draw it out on a canvas, shout it from the rooftops, and sing it out out to the world to hear.