Niromi de Soyza, author of Tamil Tigress, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |June 27, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Niromi de Soyza

author of Tamil Tigress

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Kandy, the central hill country of Sri Lanka and moved to the northern town of Jaffna when I was eight. As the civil war engulfed the country, I fled to India when I was eighteen and completed my schooling before arriving in Sydney, Australia two years later. I now live in Sydney’s northshore with my husband and two children and teach at a University.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve, I wanted to be a writer, at eighteen, a freedom fighter and at thirty, to make a positive contribution to the community.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That violence could be combated with violence

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

1. Having been separated as a child from my family at a young age.

2. Reading the works of Indian poet Subramaniya Barathi and by Che Guevara.

3. Experiencing the terrible effects of violence early in life have all taught me the transient nature of human life and to not to take anything for granted.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Far from it – those who are interested not only in news briefs and current affairs but also in gaining depth of knowledge, enjoy the use of language as an art form and care for a good story will continue to read books, whether in hard copy or as e-books.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My memoir the Tamil Tigress is the story of my childhood in Sri Lanka, how I came to be a child soldier with the Tamil Tigers and why I left. It is about teenage idealism, coming of age, shattered dreams and heartbreak of leaving ones home and settling in another country.

(BBGuru: Publisher synopsis – In 1987, 17-year old Niromi de Soyza shocked her middle-class Sri Lankan family by joining the Tamil Tigers. Equipped with a rifle and cyanide capsule she was one of the rebels’ first female soldiers. Now married and living in suburban Sydney, this is her story of her time as a guerrilla.

Two days before Christmas in 1987, at the age of 17, Niromi de Soyza found herself in an ambush as part of a small platoon of militant Tamil Tigers fighting government forces in the bloody civil war that was to engulf Sri Lanka for decades. With her was her lifelong friend, Ajanthi, also aged 17. Leaving behind them their shocked middle-class families, the teenagers had become part of the Tamil Tigers’ first female contingent. Equipped with little more than a rifle and a cyanide capsule, Niromi’s group managed to survive on their wits in the jungle, facing not only the perils of war but starvation, illness and growing internal tensions among the militant Tigers. And then events erupted in ways that she could no longer bear.

How was it that this well-educated, mixed-race, middle-class girl from a respectable family came to be fighting with the Tamil Tigers? Today she lives in Sydney with her husband and children; but Niromi de Soyza is not your ordinary woman and this is her compelling story.)

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I hope the world sees the reality of human suffering brought on by armed conflict, no matter how noble the cause may thought to be, and find better ways to solve differences.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I admire those who remain true to their beliefs in the face of adversity – Nelson Mandela, Julian Assange, Malalai Joya and Aung San Suu Kyi to name a few.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Mine is simple – to live a life of no regrets.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Nothing they haven’t already heard – true belief and commitment to your craft for the right reasons! And ‘start now!’

Niromi, thank you for playing.

Buy Tamil Tigress here

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • sanka

    June 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I am absolutely amazed by your life story. I hope your story will get greater world wide media attention. Good luck to whatever you do but please dont give up the fight for fairness and justice . Thank you.

    • Fernandopulle Gunaratnam

      July 10, 2011 at 8:27 am

      ……… amazed you say? I say WAR CRIMINAL. still points the gun at us after killing our family members.

  • Ram Mohan

    June 30, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Looks still confused about violence. Violence is needed to prevent violence and once that is done and parity achieved, politics of argument should lead to a satisfactory solution if sense prevailed. In Sri Lanka, the prejudices of the oppressor were so deep that they used the politics of argument only to buy time, defeated the opponent and continuuing the violence without resistance and that is genocide.If the world continues to watch genocides, civilisation will be destroyed but that is against the laws of Nature. So the World order needs to be changed and probably for that Nature is becoming more violent in the recent past and will continue till the World gets SENSE.

    • Fernandopulle Gunaratnam

      July 10, 2011 at 8:22 am

      Genocide and all other crimes in Sri Lanka were done by Tamil tiger terrorists who killed unarmed innocent civilians, among them moderate Tamil leaders. Tamil tigers are the worst war criminals in the history of Sri Lanka and they should face justice. They should be arrested if they enter the country again. We appeal to the Sri Lankan government to file war crime charges against them. Foreign countries should be requested to arrest and extradite them to Sri Lanka.

      • Ram Mohan

        July 11, 2011 at 12:45 am

        Tamils who became Sinhalese, tell more lies than Sinhalese.

  • Sundar

    July 2, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Great you are true and true a proud Tamil Tigress
    Let me know where I can buy you book. Thanks

  • July 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Hi till i read the book i will not be able to comment.Great of her to put her experience in pen n paper.

  • Ossie Corea

    July 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Classic example of a person whose whole family since generations benefitted from everything the country and people had to offer and grow up to point the gun and kill the same people, over 80.000 of them who gave the helping hands.
    A glance at the cover of the book and short description here is enough, I do not have to read it I know it all. Better remain where you are and never set toot on Sri Lankan soil, unless you want the people to award you with the same prestigious EALAM that was awarded to V.P and his goons Same applies to other sakkili terrorists. Sri Lanka was always a home for peace and harmony loving people regardless of their ethnicity and religion and it shall remain so. It will no longer a place for people with inferiority complex.

    • July 8, 2011 at 10:35 am

      Mr Corea,
      We need to forgive and move on. Remember we had the JVP terrorists also. Please listen to the admirable talk by our Kumar Sangakkara and learn something.

      Shiran de Soysa

      • Ossie Corea

        July 8, 2011 at 9:02 pm

        Forgiving and reconciliation was done many times and too often in the past. The JVP was an anarchists group and no internationally organized terrorists group. Being a person who monitored the diaspora since 40 years, my opinion is that they have not budged an inch from their original positions / demands and are fully focused on the total destruction of Sri Lanka. We see a 3D image from every angle and not the BW image some want us to see.

        Since ending of the war, the diaspora did not show the slightest remorse and regret about their 30 odd year long support to the Tamil terrorists. Only the Sri Lankan fools are quick to talk about reconciliation and forgiving, when it was they who declared war, and rightfully should BEG FOR FORGIVENESS and RECONCILIATION.
        We doing it will be wrongly understood and interpreted by the IC and the diaspora; which is happening right now without you realizing it.

        Have you forgotten the recent negative publicity stunt against Sri Lanka that was aired on Channel 4 the mouthpiece of the diaspora?
        Don’t you see it as a mockery that they want only the last stages of the war investigated. In other words, they want the IC to know why the Sakkili rebels were defeated, and suggest that their defeat was a result of war crimes committed by us. Smart tries, isn’t it? The side-effect is that the excuse is used by the money-extorting gangs of thugs operating in many countries.
        We saw how little Tamil kids who were born abroad and had never set foot on Sri Lanka were waving LTTE flags and shouting genocide and ethnic cleansing. Some held posters that were taller than the kid that was holding it. I have the photos and videos of demonstrations in many countries.
        Certainly we need to move on as one undivided Sri Lanka, but this time we shall / should not move around the hindrances place in front of us running in circles, but blast the damn hindrance and take a direct B-line towards building up a better future in an undivided country.
        Certain elements are desperately trying to get us to run in circles, but do not give them the slightest chance in fooling you. As H.E Mr. President Mahinda Rajapaksa proclaimed, all people in Sri Lanka are Sri Lankan nationals with equal rights and privileges. That been said, take it or leave to countries that are forced to accept them as refugees, Canada is the latest victim.
        Those who insist that Tamils should remain a minority in Sri Lanka does not belong in Sri Lnaka and should be banned from entering the country.
        Fighting a 30 year long civil war is too long to discuss about teen-ager idealism. BTW I am also from Kandy and have close relations who speak Tamil as their mother-tongue. I love my people and do not want anybody to be harmed.
        As I said earlier, we take a direct bee-line path to the future and blast every damn boulder that appear as a hinderance. To those who still insist on EALAM it is not really necessary to return, EALAM could be awarded in any country, right up to their doorsteps.

      • Fernandopulle Gunaratnam

        July 9, 2011 at 2:19 am

        Forgive tamil terrorists? NEVER
        Do not repeat the same mistake of forgiving them again as they see forgiveness as our weakness.

  • Ossie Corea

    July 9, 2011 at 4:19 am

    Smart try, whom are you guys fooling ?

  • Sivarajah

    July 10, 2011 at 7:56 am


    The 25 year long civil war was all about Tamil nationalists killing unarmed civilians mostly among them peaceful fellow Tamils who were opposed to dividing the country. Tamils in all were only 12 % of the population who controlled 80 percent of the wealth when the British granted independence in 1948. Almost 9 percent of the Tamils who assimilated never had problems but it was the less than 3% Tamil nationalists who began to create trouble each time reforms were introduced. We should not forget that the British left the country leaving behind a civil administrative service consisting of over 90% Tamils who were taught English at school whereas the majority Sinhalese were not taught in English, but only in their native Sinhalese. That being the case, since English was the official language, people who had not completed their studies in English never got the opportunity of getting well paid good government jobs, and most of them were Sinhalese and Muslims who lived in the south. Tamil nationalists never wanted to assimilate and fellow Tamils who assimilated were alienated and they were the people who mostly suffered under the brutalities of the Tamil tiger rebels such as ……….. who tries to justify their wrongdoings. Those who committed the worst atrocities ware the people who escaped by running away to foreign countries. This woman may be seen as a great hero by her butcher comrades, but to use she is a war criminal who should face justice in Sri Lanka. The atrocities committed by these people are endlessly long. Such people should be arrested and expatriated to Sri Lanka. Those who have become foreign nationals should be stripped of their nationality and deported back to the country of their birth. There are many thousands of such war criminals living abroad. Since the crushing of the Tamil tiger Terrorists, all people live without the fear of getting killed. These Tamil war criminals should be brought to justice.

    Sri Lanka

  • Gehan Gunasekera

    July 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I have witnessed horrors committed by all sides, personally, and I believe that hate begets hate. It takes a great deal of soul searching to rise above it, but I understand the feelings when one sees brutality in any conflict be it in Sri Lanka or Serbia.
    I am happy that the conflict is over but at what price ? I guess if it didn’t end there would be more blood lost of our precious brothers and sisters, of what ever ethnicity, we are all Sri Lankans first.
    The book depicts the saddest of memories of a young Sri Lankan, well constructed and presented. I wish you well in your work Niromi.

    • Sivarajah

      July 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      The LTTE that escaped punishment are singing a different tune after
      losing the war, do not be fooled about their self confessions. She should
      be brought to justice.

  • S.T.J

    February 11, 2018 at 5:48 am

    Today I read the translation of Tamil Tigress. I didn’t experience violence as I was too small during that period. But as a Sri Lankan we heard everyday bomb explosions etc. We were tensed. We wished to see the end of the war.
    However we experienced the wnd of the war.
    After 9 years from the end of the war I read the translation of Tamil Tigress. First I got angry with the writer but later I felt pity on her. In her youth she agreed with her conscience. But later she understood about violence. However this is one of the best books I have ever read.
    I wish to meet Mrs.Niromi de Soyza one day.
    However war is a crime. People die. Thaat’s the nature of war. Though they are enemies they too are human. I honour all the soldiers and civilians who dedicated their happiness ,life etc. to gain independence to oir motherland.

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