I am writing my personal memoirs of surviving the Cambodian genocide (1975 -1979). My story begins when the Communists took over, progresses through multiple escape attempts and concludes with how freedom was regained. The book reveals intimate details of how I learned to survive year-round unforgiving conditions and many agonizing moments including when the Khmer Rouge separated me from my parents. Throughout the horrific journey, I experienced constant reminders to keep faith in God and to not lose hope that my family would somehow be able to survive.
Despite the horrific setting, the story includes candid details of undeniable moments of giggling and friendship among starving teenage girls. Those friendships, along with numerous acts of compassion from kind-hearted people helped me keep sane with small strands of hope to cling to. Ultimately, it was my family, especially my mother, that gave me the will and courage to survive.
While enduring the suffering and hardship, I often thought that if I were lucky enough to survive the Khmer Rouge atrocities, I would share the experience with my future children. Now I am working on publishing my story, in loving memory of my mother, and I need your help to complete the project.
I hope my story inspires my children, your children and young people around the world to never take freedom for granted, to take time for love, to never lose hope and to keep faith.
During my first year living in America, I read, “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank. Her story gave me inspiration and reminded me to stay true to my promise, so, I began writing notes for my story. Years passed by and I would occasionally add more notes each time I had a flashback that kept me awake at night. Through these efforts a rough outline began taking shape.
On June 2nd of 1992, while I was in the hospital bed nursing and admiring my first born (Natasha), I began chapter 1. Soon afterward, I organized the chapters and spent the following years recounting the horrific and tender memories as if they happened yesterday. After many tears reliving the painful memories, I have come to greatly appreciate the catharsis from writing the story itself. It took me 38 years and many more life changing events: the birth of my son Richard, Natasha turning thirteen years old (the same age I was when the Khmer Rouge took over), my mother passing away in 2010, and finally my current unemployment, to complete writing my story.
Below is a passage taken from Chapter 6 "Separation". It recounts my fear and agony when I was separated from my parents to work in the first of several labor camps.
Em was still recovering in the sick-house when the Black Uniform came to take me away from my parents. I was gathering rice under the hot sun when I saw two Black Uniforms and the village chief marching toward the field. I shrank down to the ground, wishing I could disappear. I watched them call out a few boys and girls from the field to get in line behind them. Hoping they thought I was too young to go, I turned away from them to put a bundle of rice stalks onto a stack, but it was too late.
They called out to me, “Comrade by the stack, you need to come with us.” I felt so light, as if I could float above the ground. As if I was hypnotized, I followed their commands. “You can leave the curved knife with the mothers and the fathers here.”
I looked for Pa, but he would not let me see him, just like when Chenda was forced to leave. He could not bring himself to acknowledge...read more...
The book has 21 chapters and 132,000 words.
Here are some remarks and comments from reviewers after reading the manuscript:
I love this book. It's the story of a young girl and her family as they find themselves in peril after the Khmer Rouge invaded their town and nothing in their lives is ever the same. It's a thought provoking story showing how a resilient girl and her family deal with their devastation. While the situations are drastically different from the life they had always known, the author's voice is still warm and filled with unexpected moments of joy. Jane Gray
Channy Laux’s memoir of her life as a teenager under the Khmer Rouge gives the reader an intimate, heart-rending insight into the killing fields of the Cambodian Genocide, one of the great atrocities of the twentieth century. It also brings home what it means to be a refugee, someone forced to flee in order to survive. Even as a slave laborer, who has to catch reptiles and steal fruit to stay alive, Channy retains hope, resilience, her youthful curiosity, and even an irresistible joie de vivre. Her steady devotion to her mother, Em, and the rest of her extended family is both touching and heroic.
This story of one family’s struggle for survival brings home the important difference between economic immigrants and refugees, who are fleeing for their lives and have a human right to asylum. Channy Laux is one of the lucky ones as she was allowed to build a new life in a new country. Her book reminds us of the many today who are turned away from all hope of a safe haven. Nancy Flowers, Human Rights Consultant Co-Founder, Human Rights Educators USA
Has to be published, the world needs to know… Love the happy ending! Dorothy Cubberly
Inspires me to learn more about Cambodia, its culture, and people. Theresa Felles
The story is compelling. I could not put it down. Channy’s writing style makes the story come alive, I felt as if she was telling me face to face. Absolutely amazing! As horrible as the story is, I did not feel sorry or sad for Channy, rather, my feeling was that of admiration of what she endured at such a young age with determination and resilience. Catherine McIntyre
I read it with tears at some of the most painful memories we shared and laughing out loud at some of the funniest things Channy described of her experience. I greatly admire Channy’s courage and perseverance in getting her harrowing experience at such young age into this book. Channy's sister, Chenda Chhi, Founder of Coral Tree Education Foundation
Channy’s story makes me cry and laugh at the same time. The story is told in such a vivid way, I want to reach into the book, pull Channy out and give her a big hug. I love the story; not the laboring, starving suffering, longing and sadness in it. Rather, it's the underlying hopefulness intertwined throughout the story that is being told, the intimacy in the telling of the story, and the humanity of the story's teller. Curtis Roelle
I am excited to offer supporters of my project, several reward levels; most of which include digital, paperback or hardcover editions of the book. The paperback and hardcover edition rewards will be autographed by me ;)
Additional rewards/items include:
- A personal thank you note, handwritten and signed by me on the French Village Hut postcard, sent to you via US mail. This hut (sketched by my brother, Ken Chhi) was the last place my family lived together before being separated by the Khmer Rouge.
- Short Hair Detention bookmark with picture of Angkor Wat on the back
- Last but not least, a motivational speaking engagement where I come to your event
I have decided to use Simon and Schuster's publishing service, Archway, to get this book published. Archway offers a fantastic and comprehensive package for first-time authors like me.
Here's how I will utilize the funds raised:
- 80% to cover the cost of publishing
- 8-10% will be used to cover Kickstarter’s fees (including payment processing fees)
- The remaining funds will be used for printing the postcards/bookmarks and packaging for shipping rewards to you.
Thank you for viewing my Kickstarter project, I am grateful to each of you and hope that you might take time to share my project with your friends and family.
Risks and challenges
I don't anticipate many risks or challenges because my book is complete. Many of my close friends and family are helping me with proofing and editing. Also, local book clubs have read the manuscript and provided valuable feedback.
Archway Publishing, a part of Simon and Schuster, will be handling all the proofing/editing, finalization, and distribution of the book (including through their main distributors). The book will be available in e-book and traditional (softcover and hardcover) formats.
If you have questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Channy Chhi Laux
- (30 days)