From the National Writing Examiner
by Donna L. Quesinberry
The Immortal Seeds: Life Goes on for a Khmer Family, written by Sambeth Meas is this month’s Book Nook featured interview:
Q1. What is your book about?
A1. The Vietnam War officially spilled into Cambodia in 1970, giving rise to the Cambodian communist rebels. From 1970 to 1975, the American-backed Khmer Republic and the China-backed Khmer Rouge fought each other acrimoniously. Tragically, the latter won the civil war and ruled the country based on paranoia and brutality. The Khmer Rouge leaders and cadres were responsible for the violent deaths of almost two millions of the country’s population. Nearly all of our immediate family members and relatives were executed, starved or worked to death.The book is about my family’s struggle to survive this draconian communist regime and journeys to find peace, freedom, and happiness.
Q2. Please give me some insight as to why you are writing this book.
A2. Since I became aware of my surrounding, which started at the age of five, I noticed that my family was always on the move. I never understood why and my parents never explained why. Our last move brought us to the United States of America. Growing up as an American, I was often bombarded by tragic news about Cambodia and its people. It¹s utterly heart-breaking and discouraging to hear people say that Khmer people are not good at anything but killing each other. I believe the Khmer Rouge had permanently stigmatized us. Therefore, I wanted to find out why Khmer was killing Khmer.
Secondly, I was growing up with a father who was haunted by painful memories of the past. We developed an arduous relationship as a father and daughter. I didn¹t understand what he was going through and he was giving me a hard time. Nothing I did seemed to satisfy him. We were both stubborn people. I didn¹t see his way and he didn¹t see mine. His near death experience brought us closer to each other. Therefore, I wrote this book because I wanted to know why Khmer was killing Khmer and to know what kind of experiences my parents went through, especially my father who underwent sleeplessness, moodiness, anger, and frustration.
Q3. There are many stories about the Khmer Rouge/Killing Field out there. How is yours different?
A3. I feel that many Khmer Rouge or Killing Field stories out there are from the perspectives of outsiders and Cambodian city people. Since we were peasants, it would be interesting for the readers to look at this period through our eyes. Granted that we lived under the same regime, but all of us experienced and saw things differently
Q4. What do you expect the new generation to learn from your book?
A4. Readers will learn that many factors contributed to the demises of Cambodia and her people and those factors are addressed in The Immortal Seeds.
Secondly, this book is a testament to my parents¹ heroism, especially my father who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. This book reminds him of his courage, wisdom, and sacrifices to protect and nurture his family. If I can help to inspire my parents and others who sacrificed so much to find peace, freedom, and opportunity for their children to live in a better world than they did, like the United States of America, then I am satisfied as a daughter and as a writer.
About the Author: The Immortal Seeds: Life Goes on for a Khmer Family, written by Sambath Meas, a first time author who lives in Schaumburg, Illinois. After immigrating from Thailand’s refugee camp to the United States of America (September 1981) at the tender age of eight, Sambath mitigated life and adjusted to American culture, later attending Loyola University Chicago and obtaining her B.A. in Political Sciences.
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