HomeAsian AmericansCambodian author Bunkong Tuon tells ‘stories of survival and love’

Cambodian author Bunkong Tuon tells ‘stories of survival and love’

Cambodian-American writer and poet Bunkong Tuon will be releasing his debut novel, Koan Khmer, which tells the story of an orphaned survivor of the Cambodian genocide who sets out to make a new life in the U.S.

Tuon’s novel is due out from Curbstone/Northwestern University Press this August, Union College reported. The text is loosely based on Tuon’s life as protagonist Samnang Sok learns to move forward from his childhood traumas with the help of literature. 

Koan Khmer gives an unflinching voice to a distinctly Cambodian American sensibility,” reads a statement from the publisher, according to the listing on Barnes & Noble. “Tuon creates a refugee space that all Americans can visit in this bildungsroman that breathes life into cultural knowledge disrupted by loss and grief.”

Tuon, who was born just years before the communist Khmer Rouge regime committed the murder of around 3 million people in Cambodia, said he used literature for guidance when trying to rebuild his life, Union College reported.

“Writing is a way for me to honor my family, to share their stories of survival and love,” said Tuon to Union College.

Tuon earned a B.A. in comparative literature from California State University, Long Beach, as well as a master’s and doctorate from the University of Massachusetts. Since 2008, he has worked as an associate professor of English at Union College in New York, according to Union College

He is the author of the poetry collections Gruel, And So I Was Blessed and The Doctor Will Fix It, Tuon’s website reads. His work was featured in World Literature Today, Copper Nickel, New York Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, The American Journal of Poetry, carte blanche, Consequence, The Lowell Review, Diode Poetry Journal, among others.

“As a child survivor of the Cambodian Genocide, I write about this history and its impact on Cambodian Americans. It is a way for me to make sense of my life, my family, and my place in the United States. Writing is a way of mapping the coordinates of my being,” Tuon’s website reads.

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