Loung Ung: From Survivor to Fighter

Cambodian activist emphasizes reslience and recovery, with a dash of humor

NEW YORK, April 23, 2012 — Activist, writer and survivor of the Cambodian genocide Loung Ung gave an Asia Society audience a close-up look at her battles with post-traumatic stress disorder and fear of commitment, as well as her subsequent discovery of "strength in forgiveness" and reconnecting with her homeland.

The author of three memoirs chronicling her survival during Cambodia's Khmer Rouge period and later journey toward healing, Ung was at Asia Society to discuss her third and final book in the series, Lulu in the Sky

In conversation with Patricia McCormick, author of the forthcoming Never Fall Down, Loung decisively laid to rest any notion that it is impossible to regain purpose and love following trauma. The act of writing, for herself and others, helped Loung reclaim her voice and realize her inner strength. Loung explained, "I didn't give myself credit as a survivor and a fighter."

Speaking with characteristic honesty and openness, Ung explained how she learned to redefine how she saw herself and her past, creating a new narrative of her life experiences in which she could fully embrace her "warrior spirit." This understanding, in addition to the patient and enduring commitment of her husband, allowed Loung the space to rescue herself. Speaking of her relationship with her husband Mark, Loung said that they have found a nice balance where she challenges him and he's "sunshine."

Ung's talk, like the life story recounted in her three memoirs, made it clear her love of laughter and passion for life will continue to guide her through any future obstacles on her "healing journey." Explaining that this is a gift she helps to share with others through her writing and activism, Ung stressed that each of us, regardless of what our past traumas are, has the inner strength to learn to "breathe through the sunset."

Reported by Cecily Kamps

Related links
Watch the complete program
Asia Blog interview with Loung Ung
Excerpt from Lulu in the Sky

Watch: Highlights from Loung Ung's Asia Society New York talk (8 min., 55 sec.)