Bending with the Wind

Memoir of a Cambodian Couple’s Escape to America

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About the Book

Before the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in April 1975, Sao Bounchoeurn and San Bounriem grew up in idyllic, though vastly different, circumstances. After a secondary education, Bounchoeurn entered the army, joined the Special Forces, and worked for the Americans. He became a slave laborer after the fall of Phnom Penh and eventually escaped to Thailand. In another part of Cambodia, Bounriem lived happily spoiled and uneducated. Fleeing from the advancing Khmer Rouge, she arrived at the same refugee camp as Bounchoeurn, where they met, married, and immigrated to America. This riveting memoir chronicles the couple’s childhoods, their lives under the Khmer Rouge, their journeys to Thailand and later the United States, and their efforts to forge a new life. This remarkable tale offers an intimate look inside the terrors of the Khmer Rouge and an inspiring portrait of the immigrant experience in America.

About the Author(s)

Bounchoeurn Sao has spent the last 28 years as an educator and interpreter for Cambodian and Lao refugees in Olympia, Washington. He also works for the family janitorial business.
Diyana D. Sao (born Bounriem) is the owner and manager of a successful janitorial business in Olympia, Washington.
Karline F. Bird, a retired educator, has taught English in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and Olympia, Washington, and at the Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China; Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Hangzhou International School in Hangzhou, China.

Bibliographic Details

Bounchoeurn Sao and Diyana D. Sao, as told to Karline F. Bird
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 228
Bibliographic Info: 21 photos, glossary, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6377-0
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8990-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Glossary      xi
Names and Relationship Terms      xiii
Preface by Karline Bird      1

PART I—SAO BOUNCHOEURN: HE WAS JUST A SOLDIER
1. Give Back Only Bone and Eyes      7
2. Speak for Yourself      13
3. I Fell in Love with a Tribal Girl      21
4. Encounters with a Wild Boar and a Tiger      26
5. If You’re Not Afraid, We’re Not Afraid      33
6. Now We Will Have Peace      43
7. He’s Just a Soldier      49
8. If I Talk to You, You Will Die      54
9. You Cannot Say No to Angka      59
10. You Must Be Like the Kapok Tree      66
11. Find the North Star and Follow It      75
12. I Can’t Find My Wife and Children      83

PART II—SAN BOUNRIEM: VILLAGE GIRL
13. The San Family of Thirteen      89
14. A Spiritual Child      97
15. Lightning Strikes      108
16. The Khmer Rouge Are Coming!      122
17. We Arrive at Lum Pok Refugee Camp      130

PART III—SAO BOUNCHOEURN AND SAN BOUNRIEM
18. Bounriem: How Can I Marry Her Tonight?      145
19. Bounriem: What Will You Do If She Walks in the Camp Tomorrow?      152
20. Bounchoeurn: You Have to Do It; We Need You      158
21. Bounriem: Everything Will Be Fine      165
22. Bounchoeurn: Going to America      169
23. Bounchoeurn: We Didn’t Understand      173
24. Bounriem: Reunited with Family      178
25. Bounchoeurn: Everyone Died Except Me      185
26. Bounriem: Killed for Wanting to Join His Children      193
27. Bounchoeurn: He Was Murdered Because I Was a Soldier      199

Bibliography      203
Index      205