Crossing Three Wildernesses

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9781566891677: Crossing Three Wildernesses
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In a harrowing but ultimately triumphant affirmation of the human spirit, celebrated Cambodian poet U Sam Oeur narrates his incredible life story, testifies to the horrors of genocide and shares his fervent prayers for peace and freedom through the process of democracy.

Born in 1936 to a large and moderately prosperous farming family, Oeur spent his childhood herding water buffalo and tending rice paddies in the lush Cambodian countryside. He was educated under the French colonial system and selected to attend California State University in Los Angeles. While in the United States, he awakened to the possibilities of the democratic ideal and went on to receive his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Upon returning to Cambodia in 1968, Oeur married, became a captain in Lon Nol’s army, served in the National Assembly and was part of the Cambodian delegation to the United Nations. When Pol Pot assumed power in 1975, Oeur, having vowed to help establish democracy in Cambodia and unaware of the events ahead, elected to stay. Driven out of Phnom Phen with millions of the city’s residents, Oeur, along with his wife and son, miraculously survived the killing fields, feigning illiteracy and relying upon the skills he had learned as a child to endure six forced-labor camps over the next four years. Millions, however, died during the Khmer Rouge regime, including Oeur’s twin daughters.

Crossing Three Wildernesses is a personal account of survival, an astute political analysis and a beautiful illustration of the Cambodian culture—its people, myths and traditions. In a world still plagued by genocide and terror, this remarkable memoir is a moving call to freedom and a passionate plea for peace.

A devout Buddhist, U Sam Oeur is the author of the bilingual collection of poems Sacred Vows. He lives in Texas, where he continues to translate the poems of Walt Whitman into Khmer.

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About the Author:

U Sam Oeur grew up in a Cambodian farming family. After studying in the US, he served in the Cambodian government, becoming part of the Cambodian delegation to the UN. When Pol Pot assumed power in 1975, Oeur, along with his wife and son, survived the killing fields while feigning illiteracy in six forced-labor camps. A devout Buddhist, Oeur now lives in Texas. Poet and translator Ken McCullough's recent books include Walking Backwards and Obsidian Point. He has received numerous awards for his poetry including a Pablo Neruda Award, Galway Kinnell Poetry Award, and New Millenium Poetry Award. He translated U Sam Oeur's Sacred Vows and wrote the lyrics for the chamber opera, "The Krasang Tree," based on Oeur's poetry and experiences.

From Publishers Weekly:

Taking readers into the heart of Cambodian culture with this compelling litany of triumphs and terrors, poet Oeur (Sacred Vows) recalls his life as an adroit survivor. Growing up with his farming family in the Cambodian countryside, he had a bucolic boyhood, herding water buffalo away from rice paddies, before a 1961 scholarship took him to California State University. He attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop amid the 1960s unrest: "All the tumult that seemed to be tearing America apart, looked like real democracy in action to me." Back in Cambodia in 1968, he married, was elected to the Khmer Republic's National Assembly and became a delegate to the U.N. After Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge caused Cambodia to become a "synonym for insanity," in 1975, millions died from diseases, starvation and execution (the three titular wildernesses). Although Oeur evaded the "killing fields" by feigning illiteracy in six forced-labor camps, there were 23 deaths in his family during the Pol Pot regime. He returned to the U.S. in 1992 and now lives in Texas. This sensitive summary of his nomadic life resonates with passion, poignancy and self-insight. 8 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
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Book Description Coffee House Press, United States, 2005. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. In a harrowing but ultimately triumphant affirmation of the human spirit, celebrated Cambodian poet U Sam Oeur narrates his incredible life story, testifies to the horrors of genocide and shares his fervent prayers for peace and freedom through the process of democracy.Born in 1936 to a large and moderately prosperous farming family, Oeur spent his childhood herding water buffalo and tending rice paddies in the lush Cambodian countryside. He was educated under the French colonial system and selected to attend California State University in Los Angeles. While in the United States, he awakened to the possibilities of the democratic ideal and went on to receive his MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.Upon returning to Cambodia in 1968, Oeur married, became a captain in Lon Nol's army, served in the National Assembly and was part of the Cambodian delegation to the United Nations. When Pol Pot assumed power in 1975, Oeur, having vowed to help establish democracy in Cambodia and unaware of the events ahead, elected to stay. Driven out of Phnom Phen with millions of the city's residents, Oeur, along with his wife and son, miraculously survived the killing fields, feigning illiteracy and relying upon the skills he had learned as a child to endure six forced-labor camps over the next four years. Millions, however, died during the Khmer Rouge regime, including Oeur's twin daughters.Crossing Three Wildernesses is a personal account of survival, an astute political analysis and a beautiful illustration of the Cambodian culture-its people, myths and traditions. In a world still plagued by genocide and terror, this remarkable memoir is a moving call to freedom and a passionate plea for peace.A devout Buddhist, U Sam Oeur is the author of the bilingual collection of poems Sacred Vows. He lives in Texas, where he continues to translate the poems of Walt Whitman into Khmer. Seller Inventory # BTE9781566891677

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