What Inspired Me to Write My Book
by: Dana Hui Lim
Beginning in 1969 the people of Cambodia were subjected to an outrage as horrific as any in human history. It was smaller in scale than those of Stalin, Hitler and Mao, but no less thorough in execution. I lived under a suffocating blanket of silence for six years, where an unwise word or facial expression could mean that you were punished or killed. I wanted to deal justice to my oppressors and beat them with my fists, but to protest meant a quick trip to a shallow grave. All I could do was to endure and hope that things would change, although after enough time I resigned myself to labour in hunger and misery until I died. Later on, the time I spent in various refugee camps was little better, regardless of the current political views on the subject. I saw people burn themselves to death with petrol as they lost hope. Every day was an unending catalogue of dismal, dark sameness, and I remember it all. I survived though, and in fact my family was relatively lucky to mostly escape intact—if the word lucky could ever be used under such circumstances.
Few of my countrymen have written of their experiences, and most do not even talk about the past, even to their loved ones. It is as if they have edited a segment from their lives and would prefer not to be reminded of it. Cambodian culture has a habit of putting on a happy façade and I don’t blame anyone for that, but it’s just not me. Even though most people don’t want to talk about those years, I thought that it was important that more personal accounts be available. What was the worst that could happen? It was time to do it myself.
For my message to be heard I had to speak on my own behalf or at least write, because I am not quick with English communication. In my new country I could say what I wanted and people may disagree, but they would not stop me. In Australia was freedom of a sort that comes when all of the fetters of the past have fallen away. I felt as if my life had truly begun, and that it would be an insult to those who had died if I did not take advantage of every opportunity.
If I flatter myself, I would like to think that my book might encourage others to write of their own experiences. It is okay to leave the past behind, but many people would benefit from letting out feelings that have been suppressed for so long. I feel that it is also vital that the past not be forgotten, because it does seem to repeat itself with alarming regularity. We all need to be vigilant for the signs of totalitarianism, because it can happen anytime and anywhere. I wrote my book because I remember the past all too well.
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Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG13