The Golden Land


The Golden Land

Elizabeth Shick

AWP Prize for the Novel Series

338 pages


September 2024


$24.95 Pre-order

About the Book

Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel

Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel, The Golden Land digs deep into the complexities of family history and relationships. Etta Montgomery is a Boston-based labor lawyer coming to terms with the love and loss she experienced as a teenager during a 1988 family reunion in Burma. When Etta’s grandmother dies, she is compelled to travel back to Myanmar (Burma) to explore the complicated adolescent memories of her grandmother’s family and the violence she witnessed there. Full of rich detail and intricate relationships, The Golden Land seeks to uncover those personal narratives that might lie beneath the surface of historical accounts.

Author Bio

Elizabeth Shick is an award-winning novelist whose writing is influenced by her many years abroad, including six years in Myanmar. With a background in international development, she has also lived and worked in Angola, Gambia, Italy, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. Shick currently divides her time between Dhaka, Bangladesh, and West Tisbury, Massachusetts. She holds a master of fine arts from Lesley University and a master of international affairs from Columbia University. The Golden Land is her debut novel.


“A heartfelt exploration of the ties of family, The Golden Land is an engrossing tale told across generations with the explosive history of Myanmar as its backdrop. Elizabeth Shick has written a compelling, emotionally complex novel that explores the difficulties of defining oneself amid the struggle of competing cultures. This is a timely, necessary book.”—Sabina Murray, author of The Human Zoo and Valiant Gentlemen

“Elizabeth Shick’s steady, elegant prose transported me to a place I knew little about, and I found myself wanting to learn more about this turbulent period in Myanmar’s history. The Golden Land is both a rich and intimate family portrait as well as a portal leading into another world, relevant and important to where we are in our own country today.”—Mira T. Lee, author of Everything Here Is Beautiful

“Balancing the personal with the political and showing romance side by side with a blood-soaked reality, this engrossing story is about the difficult necessity of revisiting trauma. The Golden Land radiates with cultural empathy, a glow that might light a path toward justice.”—Michael Lowenthal, author of Charity Girl

“The narrator of The Golden Land discovers a fierce bravery she didn’t know she had when she returns to Myanmar to confront the past and questions of identity. Vividly drawn, intimate, and deeply healing, this important novel asks us to consider the steep price we pay when we bury family and national history.”—Hester Kaplan, author of The Tell

The Golden Land moves back and forth in time . . . evoking present-day Myanmar’s indeed golden past when [it was] Burma, and capturing its perilous political moment, while also uncovering a Burmese American family’s interwoven secrets, layer upon layer, one revelation leading to the next with poignant logic and a gathering momentum. Elizabeth Shick tells this story with flawless authority, giving us a rich, ever-beckoning novel that’s historically sure, culturally acute, and, most of all, humanly wise as it asks how much of where we came from do we need to hold close, and how much can’t we shed, however urgently we wish to.”—Douglas Bauer, author of The Beckoning World

“Although fiction, The Golden Land is based on the true events Myanmar (Burma) has experienced over the years. Both engaging and mesmerizing, the novel carried me back to the heartache of those times. As I turned the pages, I was eager to discover what would come next for Aye and Shwe, Ahpwa and U Soe Htet, and Etta and Jason. Elizabeth Shick writes with so much empathy describing the emotions of her characters and attention to the nuances of Burmese culture that the characters felt like real people to me. Who would believe it’s a debut novel? A very good read, indeed!”—Kyi Kyi May, former head of BBC Burmese Service, London

The Golden Land is a gorgeous and moving novel about one young woman’s journey to Myanmar, where her family’s stay with their relatives nearly twenty-five years ago was cut short by political unrest. The novel immerses us in the Burma of 1988 and the Myanmar of 2011; both places are fraught with great beauty and suffering. Through the main character’s journey, we learn the difference between ‘adapting and accepting, between carrying on and forgetting,’ and find hope in the paradox that love is always tangled with disappointment, democracy doesn’t preclude loneliness and suffering, and yet trusting people we love is as natural and inevitable as breathing. This is a remarkable novel, at once informative and deeply felt.”—Kyoko Mori, author of Yarn: Remembering the Way Home

“Fascinating. . . . Moving between Boston and Yangon, and the past and the present, the story brings two vastly different worlds to life, and explores the powerful attachment between two people of contrasting backgrounds that endures beyond distance and time. Through vivid descriptions of pre-monsoon weather, shops, food, and everyday routines in both the prosperous and less savory parts of the city, Elizabeth Shick successfully captures the essence of Yangon. With its moving depictions of political turmoil and military rule, the novel is particularly significant and relevant to the ongoing troubles faced by the Burmese people in their struggle for basic rights and freedom.”—Myanmar author (name withheld for protection)

Table of Contents

Part 1
1. One
2. Two
3. Three
4. Four
5. Five
6. Six
7. Seven
8. Eight
9. Nine
10. Ten
11. Eleven
12. Twelve
Part 2
13. One
14. Two
15. Three
16. Four
17. Five
18. Six
19. Seven
20. Eight
21. Nine
22. Ten
23. Eleven
24. Twelve
25. Thirteen
26. Fourteen
27. Fifteen
28. Sixteen
29. Seventeen
Part 3
30. One
31. Two
32. Three
33. Four
34. Five
35. Six
36. Seven
37. Eight
38. Nine
39. Ten
40. Eleven
41. Twelve
42. Thirteen

Author's Note

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