"Joy is something we need more of, especially in my country. Sometimes I worry that there is an illness eating away at us, like a disease in the root of a tree. We Cambodians were so strong and proud long ago. Now there is a weakness that we cannot overcome. Not without the help of others. It is a great sadness that we all feel, even though we do not show it. It is there behind our smiles, lurking so close to the surface of our laughter."
I love short stories and food, not necessarily in that order, so I was elated to be given a D R C of a forthcoming very soon anthology devoted to short stories centering on food. I was delighted to see that Cooked Up Food Fiction From Around the World edited and introduced by Elaine Chiew contains stories by Rachel Fenton and Sue Guiney. I have previously posted on two of Rachel Fenton's wonderful short stories and she kindly did a very interesting Q and A session on my blog. Sue Guiney helped me do something relatively unique of which I am proud. She conducts for at risk Cambodia children fiction workshops in which participants express themselves in English through stories and poems drawn from their experiences. (A mastery of English is essential for professional success). I was given the honor of publishing many of these very moving works. I have also read and posted on two of Sue Guiney's set in Cambodia novels, both of which I highly recommend. I was also happy to see a short story by Krys Lee included, having enjoyed one of her works a while ago. The diversely selected other contributors all have very interesting bios. I have already posted on Elaine Chiew's story, dealing with Singaporean food culture, "Run of the Molars" and "Food Bank" by Rachel Fenton.
Today I want to spotlight a very good story by Sue Guiney. She has a vast knowledge and hands on experience of Cambodian culture. "Mysteries and Offerings" is set in a medical clinic where the poor can go for help. The medical staff are western volunteers, the staff workers are Cambodians. Readers of Sue's novels will be, I know I am eagerly looking forward to more of her set in Cambodia books, happy to be back in the clinic. The clinic has a strong family feel, the doctors are a long way from home and the employees have bonded strongly with them through their work. The story begins as Christmas Day approaches. The staff wants to put on a sumptuous Christmas feast for the doctors, of course this is a first experience for the Cambodians. It was great fun to follow the preparation for the dinner. Guiney does such a great job describing the preparations that I felt I could actually smell the delicious items being prepared.
I hope to read and post on a few more stories from Cooked Up Food Fiction From Around the World edited by Elaine Chiew in June. I recommend this anthology to all lovers of the form and if you are a foodie at all, you will love it.
Sue Guiney is an American writer and educator living in London. She has published two poetry collections and three novels and has had work published in literary journals on both sides of the
Atlantic. She was the Writer-in-Residence in the SE Asian Department of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Although Sue has written widely on a variety of subjects, most of her work and inspiration now comes from Cambodia. She has founded a creative writing workshop for at-risk children called ‘Writing Through Cambodia’, where she spends several months a year teaching. Sue is writing a series of novels set in modern-day, post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, the latest of which, Out of the Ruins, was published in 2014.
For sure I hope to feature more of the work of Sue Guiney going forward.