Complementing my blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and ninety-third, is of World War Two in the Pacific author and memoirist Ronny Hermand de Jong.
Ronny Herman, a survivor of two Japanese concentration camps for women and children in Southeast Asia during World War Two, was barely three years old when the Japanese conquered the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies, where she was born, and forced her family into prison camps where they suffered until August 1945 and almost died. Ronny, her mother and little sister endured starvation, disease and uncertainty under the brutal regime of the Japanese; all three survived.
When the war was over, a second war ensued: the nationalists, led by Soekarno fought for their independence for another four years, murdering as many Caucasians as they could with weapons the Japanese had provided.
Ten years after the war Ronny went to the Netherlands to study English Literature at Leiden University. Her impromptu marriage to Mike de Jong in 1961 was blessed with two daughters and a son. In 1972 the family immigrated to the United States and settled in Pasadena, California, where the children grew up.
Initially working for a contractor of NASA at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge, Ronny soon followed her dream and became first a fashion model, then a commercial actress in the greater Los Angeles area: a career she could combine with her family’s needs at home. She served as moderator of her church and for six years shared compassion and love with her dying patients and their families as a patient-care Hospice volunteer with Verdugo Hills Hospice. When the children had left for college, Ronny and Mike moved to Hawai’i. Almost twelve years in Hilo on the Big Island provided an opportunity for her to learn the art of dancing hula and volunteer with Hospice of Hilo as Secretary to the Board.
In between trips to the beach she wrote her first book In the Shadow of the Sun, based on the secret journal her mother smuggled through the camps. Published in Canada in 1992 it was one of the first English-language accounts in North America about Japanese death camps for women and children in Southeast Asia. Ronny promoted her book on radio and television in Hawai’i and in the Netherlands. Newspaper reviews came from as far away as Hokkaido, Japan. Her attempt to have her book translated and published in Japan met with insurmountable barriers. The Japanese government still has not acknowledged guilt for their atrocities in the Second World War, nor offered an official apology and compensation to survivors of the World War II concentration camps.
Back on the mainland, Ronny started research for her second book and discovered the NARA Files, the Japanese War Crimes Files declassified in the year 2000, which indicated the 1942 “Liquidation Plan” of the Japanese Ministry of War: Death for All. She included them in her memoir. A pilgrimage to the country of her birth and a spiritual weekend in the leper colony Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i are also among the adventures the readers will find in Part Two.
Rising from the Shadow of the Sun: A Story of Love, Survival and Joy, published in March 2011, tells the story of Ronny’s early years in captivity based on her mother’s journal and it includes her father’s story along the same timeline. In part two the reader follows Ronny on her journey through an exciting life of hope and joy from Indonesia to the Netherlands to the United States of America.
And now from the author herself:
I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. My fifth-grade teacher called me “my little writer”. I wrote stories and essays, and later on I followed the example of my mother, who wrote weekly letters about our life in the Dutch East Indies to her parents in the Netherlands. When I went to the Netherlands for my college education, I exchanged weekly letters with my mother back in Indonesia. When I started dating, I wrote to my boyfriend more than once a week – sometimes to his despair, because he loved to get my letters but didn’t like writing back – and when we got married and immigrated to the United States I wrote to my parents and in-laws and friends and relatives, too. I can’t imagine how I found the time to write so much with a family of five, but I did! I just loved writing.
As a little girl, incarcerated by the Japanese for almost four years, I was not aware that my mother kept writing her letters in a secret diary. She must have written when my little sister and I were asleep, so that we could not accidentally spill the beans to other inmates or to the Japanese soldiers. Writing, even having paper and pencil was strictly forbidden. They would have killed Mamma if they had found the diary.
I love languages. For my college education I needed two years of Greek and Latin, and in high school I learned French, English and German. I loved to read French books; French is a beautiful language. My writing however is limited to Dutch and English. I prefer the English language because it is so much more eloquent than Dutch. I also love translating and editing in Dutch and English.
In 1985, Mamma gave me her camp diary. I loved translating it from Dutch into English for my children. Then I discovered that none of my friends knew anything about the WWII concentration camps in Southeast Asia and everyone confused them with the Japanese detention camps in the United States. This led to the writing of my first book In the Shadow of the Sun, published in 1992 in Canada. I resided in Hawai’i at the time.
Back on the mainland in 2001, I found that people here still don’t know much about the civilian camps in the Pacific theatre; when I did research I discovered the recently declassified Japanese War Crimes Files, the NARA Files. The Japanese were planning to systematically exterminate all prisoners in all camps starting in September of 1945! The bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were dropped only three weeks before the massacre would have begun! I had to share this with my readers. And so I wrote my second book, my memoir, Rising from the Shadow of the Sun: A Story of Love, Survival and Joy.
Through this book I hope to inspire young people to succeed in life whatever their background and to enlighten my readers about what happened to innocent civilians during World War II in the Pacific under the tyranny of the Japanese.
In the future I hope to write a fun, inspirational story for my grandchildren about their European family ties and after that a ghastly murder mystery, all non-fiction. I guess that is my genre. I write from my heart about my experiences. If I may live to be a centenarian, like my mother, I am sure I will accomplish all that. For now, promoting my new book is my first priority. I have to get that story out to the world!
You can find more about Ronny and her writing via…
- Website http://www.ronnyhermandejong.com
- Book trailer: http://www.ronnyhermandejong.com/books
If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/submission-information/opportunities-on-this-blog (the spotlights are option (a)) or email me for details.
** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!
or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **
You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my Books (including my debut novel, which is being serialised on Novel Nights In!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.
For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.
As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.