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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.
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. She understands three Asian languages -- Chinese, Indonesian and Tetum, the indigenous language of the East Timorese. She has reported on the wars, conflicts and independence struggles from Kashmir in the north west of Asia to East Timor in the south-eastern corner. Her photos and reports on China, Mongolia, Kashmir, Nepal, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Tibet, Indonesia and many other Asian countries have been used by newspapers, magazines and radio stations around the world, including the Guardian, the Independent, the Far Eastern Economic Review, Der Spiegel, the New York Times, The Economist, the BBC, Radio Netherlands and Deutsche Welle. 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. Her connection with East Timor goes back to 1994. She lived there from 1998 till 2000 and spent time with Falintil in the mountains; she was also one of the three Western journalists to stay on in the besieged UN compound and keep on reporting during the ransacking of Dili by paramilitary and the Indonesian security forces at the time of their impending departure from the island in September 1999. She has kept going back to East Timor at every important juncture in its recent history as an independent state, including the crisis in 2006 and the first parliamentary elections in 2007. Since 2007 she has been living in London with her husband and small son.