The Cambodian American Writers Who Are Reimagining Cambodian Literature

When I was a kid, the school librarian chased me down the hall with a book in her hand: First They Killed My Father, a memoir by Loung Ung. Like many Cambodian Americans of the 1.5 and second generation, I read survival literature to piece together my history––an important turning point for me as I navigated familial silence around the Khmer Rouge regime. But what if the librarian ran after me to give me a graphic novel about a Khmer girl who lived on the moon? What if she handed me a book about a queer Khmer boy living in Phnom Penh whose dream was to dance? A book with a different story?  

The literature written by Cambodian diaspora often reflects the collective trauma rendered by the genocide that took place forty-four years ago, along with the urgency to heal. This storytelling is necessary. But sometimes I worry that the world reduces Cambodians, tokenizing my people inside a trauma narrative. How do we complicate our stories? How do we reimagine Cambodian American literature to include themes such as urbanism or sex or humor––themes that move away from the genocide?
Read full article at: https://electricliterature.com/there-is-more-than-one-way-to-be-cambodian

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