Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dana Hui Lim, author of My Mother and The Tiger-A Memoir of The Pol Pot Killing Fields talks about the impact on second and third generation children

I asked Dana Hui Lim, author of a great book, My Mother and the Tiger:  A Memoir of the Killing Fields to share with us how the events of thirty five to forty years ago impact parenting styles of survivors and on to talk a bit about the manners in which children and grandchildren of killing field survivors are still shaped by these events.

Recently I had the great honor of reading and posting on Dana Hui Lim's very important, deeply moving memoir of her experiences in Cambodia under the rule of The Khmer Rouge.  I fear most are not aware of the basic facts of the period so I will relay them.

In 1975, Cambodia was taken over by a group called the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pat.  He had a vision of turning Cambodia into a purely agrian society, starting over at "year zero".  He ordered all residents of cities to vacate.   Under armed guard, often by children, millions were forced out of their homes to work in agricultural projects. Iintellectuals, ethnic Chinese, business people, those who wore glasses, those who gave the slightest resistance were executed.  This continued from 1975 to 1979. As Lim explains in her narrative, it was in large part the destruction, destabilization, and atmosphere of terrible fear and suffering created by the senseless American bombing of Cambodia which created a society where this could happen.  About two million, twenty five percent of population,  died from disease, starvation, exposure and execution from 1975 to 1979.  It ended when the Vietnamese, the traditional enemy of the Cambodians, invaded the country in 1979.  One of the most exciting episodes in Liu's book was the time those in her slave labor camp realized the Khmer Rouge guards were all gone and they were free.   

an extract from my review

I feel Lim's book should become an international best seller.   I am going to urge my three teenage daughters to read it.  

Mother and the Tiger:  A Memoir of the Killing Field is a tribute to to the power of the human spirit.   The true wonder of Lim's marvelous book is letting us see the incredible hard times she went through without becoming hard.  Her prose is simple and beautiful.  Anyone who ever hated someone for their skin color, their birthplace, their language or religion should be required to read this book.  

Sue Guiney's Introductory Post  -Project Director - contains important links 

My Q and A with Dana Hui Lim author of Mother and the Tiger- A Memoir of the Killing Fields. - essential background information -also contains a link to my review of her superb book.

Hi Mel,

Here is the piece with my take on the impact of the Pol Pot Regime on the second and third generation of children since then.


I was a child of the Killing Fields, and I grew up without a family despite the claims of the Khmer Rouge it was now both my Mother and Father. I saw and heard things that no one should ever have to experience and this left an indelible mark that I wish I could scrub away. I fear that it has soaked into my very bones though, and will travel with me until I am no more. My past left me with a thirst to learn and experience the things that I missed as a child.

The children of those survivors are also affected in many and varied ways. Their parents were denied a normal upbringing and had to fight for survival, which has left many with a rather stilted approach to child-rearing. “Why don’t you know how to do”…whatever, is a common refrain in such households.  Some children become studious and have been taught to value their education above all else. They have absorbed the trauma of their parents and use it to propel their goals and aspirations in order to free their family of the darkness in the past. Some children are carefree and rely on the resources of their family, who were very hard working indeed once they reached safety. Many do not really know what their older relatives went through because their history is not a pleasant topic of conversation, and to display mental distress is unseemly in many Asian cultures. It is considered better to put on a happy face and get on with it, but who is to say what is correct when it comes to these things? There are no wrong reactions, only different ones.

The grandchildren are young and weary of the tales, if they have been told them at all. The third generation will make their own way in a world that they were born into, and they are free to do as they choose. Enough time has passed that they no longer suffer the stares and insults of being ‘different’, or if they do then others will rush to their defence, apologising on behalf of their ignorant fellows and declaring loudly that ‘We aren’t like that here’. They even mean it most of the time, despite the dog-whistle statements and mealy-mouthed pronouncements of their governments. The third generation are affected too though; savagery of the scale that Cambodia endured echoes through history and it takes a toll on all of us. We can make the world a better place if we choose.


Publisher supplied bio

Dana Hui Lim was born in Cambodia and was only six years old when the Pol Pot regime seized power. She survived the rule of the Khmer Rouge through a combination of good luck, and a determination to survive that she had not previously known she possessed.

Dana arrived in Australia when she was eighteen years old. She was unable to speak English and had virtually no formal education. She began high school in Year Ten, went on to complete a university degree and began a career in the Australian Public Service.

Dana wants to share her story with others to encourage them to persevere in the face of adversity. She would also like to urge her countrymen to discuss their experiences, or set down their own stories so that they are not lost forever. Her book serves as a warning to people of all nations and races, to be wary of the danger than can occur when ideology is not subjected to reason.

I strongly thank and commend all of the participants in this project.  I urge all to read my Q and A with Ms Lim.  I thank Sue Guiney for her guidance in my posts.


As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

What an important book for readers to know about--thank you! Before I read a novel last year written by another Killing Fields survivor (Vaddey Ratner's excellent In the Shadow of the Banyan), I knew very little about The Khmer Rouge and its regime of terror. I'm glad that more books are out there

mel u said...

as the Crowe files and reads- this is a very good morally and as literature book. Be sure and read her q and a- thanks so much for your visit