Cover image for Bitter dawn : East Timor, a people's story
Bitter dawn : East Timor, a people's story
Cristalis, Irena, 1959-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Zed Books ; New York : Distributed in the USA exclusively by Palgrave, 2002.
Physical Description:
xii, 306 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS646.59.T55 C75 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Few new nations have endured a birth as traumatic as that endured by Asia's youngest country, East Timor. Born amid the flames, pillage and mayhem that surrounded Indonesia 's reluctant withdrawal in 1999, it has been struggling for years to rebuild itself from the ashes. The author, one of a handful of journalists to refuse to be evacuated during the nightmarish Indonesian withdrawl, stayed on to report East Timor to the world, and to keep faith with the East Timorese whose story she wanted to tell. Her book is a vivid first-hand account of the lives of individual Timorese during the long decades of Indonesia 's repressive occupation, their often heroic struggle for freedom, and their efforts to cope with the dramatic historic shifts engulfing them and their endeavours to rebuild their homeland.
Based on years of research, and lengthy interviews with East Timor 's leaders, priests, nuns, students and guerrilla fighters, this moving and extremely readable book is at the same time also an exploration of the complexities of the country's internal politics.

Author Notes

Irena Cristalis, who also writes and broadcasts under the byline, Irene Slegt, is a Dutch journalist and photographer, who since 1990 has been based in Asia, including at various times Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, New Delhi and East Timor. Her photos and reports on China, Indonesia and many other Asian countries have been used by newspapers, magazines and radio stations around the world, including the Guardian, the Independent, the New York Times, The Economist, and the BBC. Her second book on East Timor: Independent Women, The story of women's activism in East Timor, co-written with Catherine Scott, was published in 2004. Since 2007 she has been living in London with her husband and small son.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Dutch journalist and photographer Cristalis's account of the early days of independence in East Timor is not merely a chronicle of a journalist's experience of historical events in this far-flung place, but a story of her journey through a landscape ravaged by a postcolonial nation's ethnic conflict, military war crimes, covert operations, overt atrocities, religious sanctuaries, revolutionary heroics, student uprisings, personal greed, surprising decency, desire for colonial enterprise, and unexpected altruism. During those heady days of referendum, East Timor struggled to wrest its freedom from the colonial grasp of the Indonesian nation-state. Cristalis allows readers to witness history from the point of view of the Timorese people and others who made it, using extensive interviews with major and minor participants as well as replays of on- and off-the-cuff conversations that took place along the way. The voices, memories, and actions of all those encountered in this text seem plagued by some sense of destiny and accidental opportunities that place them at the center or on the fringes of this "bitter dawn." The result is a deeply personal account of the dawn of East Timor independence. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Should interest general readers as well as specialists; all collections. S. Ferzacca University of Lethbridge

Table of Contents

Introduction to Lucymensahib and to Our Project
Organization of the Project
The Pakistan Nursing Council: A Dead End
Allama Iqbal Open University and the Perplexing Propensity of Plastic Penises
Women's Division: A Brief Encounter of the Worst Kind
The Population Welfare Division
Regional Training Institutes and Other Such Things
A Day in the Life of a Provincial Health Department
UNICEF and UNDP Workshops and Sindh SAP Proposal
Punjab SAP Proposal and the Firing of the Learned Doctor Sahiba
NWFP and the Problems of Working Women
Bank's World: Witches' Oil and Lizard Tails
Epilogue...No, No They Can't Take That Away From Me