Vaddey Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. After four years, having endured forced labor, starvation, and near execution, she and her mother escaped while many of her family members perished. In 1981, she arrived in the U.S. as a refugee not knowing English and, in 1990, went on to graduate as her high school class valedictorian. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Cornell University, where she specialized in Southeast Asian history and literature. Her debut novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan, is a New York Times bestseller, finalist for both the 2013 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2013 Book of the Year Indies Choice Award, and is being translated into seventeen languages. She lives in Potomac, Maryland.