By Bunkong Tuon
NYQ Books, Paperback, 9781630450069, 130pp.
Publication Date: June 25, 2015
Poetry. Asian & Asian American Studies. In his first full-length collection, GRUEL, Bunkong Tuon documents the lives of Cambodian refugees and explores the poetic landscape of a Cambodian America. Written tenderly, with honesty, intelligence, and occasional humor, Gruel is populated by survivors such as a boy who loses his mother to the Khmer Rouge regime, a grandmother who risks her life to steal a few grains of rice for her grandson, an uncle who is beaten by Thai military police for night fishing outside a refugee camp, an aunt who leaves the East Coast to buy a donut shop in California, a father who re- experiences the traumas of the Cambodian Genocide, a young man who discovers Charles Bukowski in a Long Beach public library, a professor who teaches about the horrors of war to college students at a private college in Upstate New York, to name a few. It's a book about memories, ghosts and haunting, personal loss and historical traumas, losing and finding home, discovery and self-invention; above all, it's a book about love, sacrifice, and hope.