Here’s a sample post from Santepheap (Peace), a promising new blog on all things Cambodian.
Leaving the House of Ghosts by Sarah Streed chronicles the lives of three Cambodian refugees who were sponsored by an American family in the early 1980s.
Jack and Joan Streed from Excelsior, Minnesota, took three teen-age refugees into their home to live with them and their four children. Having survived the traumas of auto genocide in their homeland by escaping to refugee camps in Thailand, these boys had major hurdles to overcome in living through the nightmares of their past horrors, becoming a part of their new family, attending high school and learning the ways of the American culture.
Sarah Streed, the oldest child of the family, was amazed at the stories told by her foster brothers. She decided to record their stories and the stories of many other survival victims of the Pol Pot slaughter. Her extensive research on Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge regime provide the beginning of the history of Cambodian immigration to the mid-western United States.
The strength of character and determination is well illustrated by both the host family and their newly adopted boys. This is a must read book for anyone interested in the cause of assisting Cambodians to rebuild their country.
Leaving the House of Ghosts is available on Amazon.com.
KNOWING CAMBODIA is a weekly feature on the Santepheap Weblog that highlights organizations, people and other things that give insight into Cambodia and overseas Cambodians. It appears every Thursday.
And here’s a plug for another new book on Cambodians: In the Shadows of Angkor, edited by Sharon May, featuring photographs by Richard Murai (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2004).
Every year, when my family finds reason to gather–for a holiday, birthday, graduation, and sometimes just because–when the coconut curry is cooked and smoke swirls heaven-bound from burning incense, the ghosts come home to feed.
Before any guests are allowed to eat, my mother prepares a tray of food, her best dishes–sticky rice, glass noodles fried with banana buds, steamed pork buns–and my father lights a handful of incense sticks. Setting these on an altar, we pray to the spirits of our dead relatives and invite them to the feast.
These spirits are the ghosts of my uncle, Sao Kim Yan, a math professor; my grandfather, Khan Reang, a rice farmer; my aunt, Koh Kenor, a housewife who was married to a businessman; and so many others who died during the war in our homeland. They are the restless ones who cross oceans and continents to find my family, now safe and comfortable in America. They are the ones who did not make it while they were living.
–From “The Dinner Guests” by Putsata Reang
See also earlier excerpts from Music in the Dark, about Daran Kravanh.