Ung, Kilong: Golden Leaf: A Khmer Rouge Genocide Survivor (2009)
Discussion: Tuesday, August 2, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Mari Levesque, 1946 SE 22nd Ave in Portland, 503-858-0621. Participating in our discussion–in person–will be Kilong Ung, the book’s author! Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Synopsis: This is a first-hand account of the life of Kilong Ung who grew up in Battambang, Cambodia and whose life dramatically changed in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. Told from the eyes of the boy that he was, this is an honest, real account that takes the reader through Kilong’s experiences as if one were actually there, without any need for embellishment of the story. This book gives the readers an insight that no history book could. It provides not just an insight into the Khmer Rouge and the terrible extermination of two million people but an insight into humanity, how it is possible for a people to be subjected to mass cruelty and hardship by a ruling power, and yet how an individual against the odds could endure this and do what it took to survive, even as tragedy befell his family. Kilong saw himself as a leaf, a golden leaf, at the mercy of mercurial winds. Yet through fortune and the help of others he survived against the odds, and was able to come to America, penniless and unable to speak English. The tale follows how he adapted to the new culture and made himself a success. The story is filled with humorous incidents as he adapts to American culture as well as poignant emotional times where he grapples with the demons of the past, struggling to overcome the terrible experiences and memories, even as he gains material success in American life. Then when an opportunity for revenge presents itself he is faced with a moral dilemma that will decide his life. Kilong has painstakingly composed a chronicle of his life over countless hours, testing the limits of his emotions. Much of this book was written in an unlikely environment; Starbucks café, whom Kilong publicly thanks for “providing power outlets, public restrooms, soft music, and Americano-inspired recoveries from writing blocks.”