“In search of an identity ” Thisuri’s interview to The Times

Thisuri Wanniarachchi who recently launched her second novel shares with Shaveen Jeewandara the insights that gave her work its life. “Who are you, if nobody knows your story?” Thalya, the terrorist’s daughter, asks the world as she embarks on a mission to find her true identity. Taken away from her roots at an early age, Thalya struggles with the pieces of her life scattered across continents.

The decider of Thalya’s destiny is 20-year old Thisuri Wanniarachchi, author of ‘The Terrorist’s Daughter’. “My second book explores the emotions of a girl who fights for her true identity,” says Thisuri explaining that the terrorist’s daughter is an embodiment of the loss of identity plagued by the war. Thalya, the protagonist, is adopted by a diplomat at an early age, as she spends most of her life basked in the riches of society. But as the flashbacks keep haunting her, Thalya heads back to the country to find her roots and her journey is spiced with romance, and purpose.

“Terrorist’s have daughters too, don’t they?” questions Thisuri. “Although the book is a snapshot of the way I see the world, it also gives insight from a lot of different perspectives.” She aims to amalgamate ideals from all walks of life and present it in a digestible way to readers. Thisuri first started writing in Sinhala, and went on to win the national short story competition held by the Ranaviru Seva Authority. “The Wind”, another story by her was awarded best English short story at the National short story competition organized by the Ministry of Law reforms on Tsunami Rebuilding Efforts. While her biggest break came when she clinched the State Literary Award back in 2009, at the age of 16, having addressed the 30-year conflict and the pressing issue of cancer in her book ‘Colombo Streets’.

“It was nice to break ground, and I remember being very excited about the award.” It was a wave of mixed counsel that Thisuri received before going ahead with the book, especially since she started working on it at the age of 14, but it was her resilience that saw the book reach publication and eventually the award.
“I’m glad that I went ahead with my gut and published it,” Thisuri says. ‘Colombo Streets’ speaks of two girls from different backgrounds, Indeevari and Sara as they meander through the strife of war and cancer. “I wanted to voice the suffering of children and youth in Sri Lanka, and cancer was a pressing point. I began writing the novel with an intention to write a story that would inspire cancer patients and leave them with hope.”

Her success paved the way for a scholarship at the Hampshire College, Amherst and later to the Benington College of Arts. “It’s a refreshing experience and it feels good to be around students who share the same creative potential,” Thisuri tell us. “I have gained a lot of insight into writing, and have broadened my horizons.”
Thisuri’s mother, Malraji Wanniarachchi, is a keen author herself. “A lot of my writing was influenced by watching my mother write, and I started penning down stories in Sinhala to begin with,” recalls Thisuri. For her, writing about the thirty year conflict was almost second nature as she would travel up North with her father, a senior officer in the Sri Lanka Army, and see the changing facades of life. “I’ve always listened to his stories,” she tells us.

Having acquired her mother’s gift of writing and her father’s flair for story-telling, a young Thisuri has proceeded to find her own imprint. Having impressed the public with her first novel, the young author is all geared up to awaken literary senses with her latest.

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