Kimarlee Nguyen, writer who explored Cambodian roots, dies at 33

who’s writing career was budding and explored her Cambodian roots was also an inspiring teacher of first generation Americans. Nguyen died of the novel coronavirus on April 5, on the way to the hospital in nearby Everett, her cousin Tina Yeng said. She was 33. Lance Tomas via The New York Times.

NEW YORK(NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Kimarlee Nguyen’s writing was as restrained as the Cambodian elders she conjured in her fiction, short stories that sketched precarious, haunted lives in a chilly new country.

But her personality was as exuberant as the rugby she played at Vassar with a team so determined, said Kiese Laymon, a novelist and her creative writing professor there, that the players would regularly come to class concussed.

“Most people are reserved in their personality, but in their writing everything busts out,” Laymon said. “Kim was the opposite. She would tell stories so it appeared that nothing had happened. But, oh, man, so much was happening.

“You know sort of immediately the kids that are going to make themselves into writers,” she added. “Kids with relentless imagination and uber desire to revise. Kim had all of that but also had, as she would say, honest stuff for her people.”

Nguyen’s work was imprinted with her parents’ experience living under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Her mother’s family had lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for three years before coming to the United States in 1982, eventually settling in Revere, Massachusetts, where Nguyen grew up.

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Remembering Kimarlee Nguyen

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