Worth A Look: Willa Schneberg’s STORYTELLING IN CAMBODIA (Calyx Books, 2006)

From a review by Lori Tsang in the Spring 2007 issue of The Multicultural Review:

(If you have time, dear blog readers, please click on each of the links below. What happened in Cambodia is a tragedy of epic proportions)

A strong narrative voice and authorial presence merge with the subjects of poems employing detailed sensory imagery to tell stories about Haing Ngor, the sensual and violent Ramayana, and the Jewish author’s lack of firsthand knowledge of holocaust — as well as stories of colonialism, like the “discovery” of Angkor Wat and André Malraux’s theft of artifacts. Next are wartime stories — spanning time and space from Nixon’s bombings to Pol Pot’s security prison and forced evacuation of Phnom Penh — about a painter, a reporter, a torture survivor, a refugee, a prison photographer, a torturer, a librarian, Prince Sihanouk, and Pol Pot’s wife.

Stories of the aftermath — about minefields, toxic waste, and the reconstruction of civil society, lives, bodies, relationships, family, culture, and colonialism — precede other survival stories, many about Burma. The last section reveals the indelible imprints of Cambodian culture, history, and people on the author through her meditations on everyday life and her parents back in Oregon. Notable for the breadth, depth, and structure of the volume as a whole as well as for the grace of writing in the individual poems, the book respects the specificity of Cambodian culture and history while capturing the universality of the human capacity for cruelty and violence, love and transformation.

2 Comments

  1. Willa said,

    May 21, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Marianne,

    Thanks for posting this wonderful review of my book. It is a pleasure to “meet” another Calyx author. Perhaps we can read together sometime. I had the pleasure of reading at Bluestockings last Fall when I was in NYC. I live in Portland, Oregon. All the best, Willa

  2. May 21, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Willa,

    It was a GREAT review. I just happened to stumble across it.

    Yes, I hope we can meet face to face someday. And, yes, I would love it if we could read together! I’ve always loved how being a Calyx author puts you inside a kind of network, a really supportive network that I haven’t encountered anywhere else . . .

    So, let me know if you’re ever in San Francisco . . .


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