Saturday, July 18, 2009

Maps of the Human Heart - Loung Ung makes us care.

Loung Ung did not set out to be an author. She became one in service to her cause - educating people about the realities of living in a war torn country - land mines, starvation, genocide.

During the 1970's, 1.7 million of the Khmer people died under the oppression of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. She lost 20 relatives - including her father, mother and 2 siblings.

At 10 years old she was transported to Vermont and began a new chapter of her life. She grew up, went to college and began working to better the condition of her fellow Khmer countrymen. But how to make people listen? How to make things happen? She knew she must bring people into her story.

She asked herself 3 key questions:
1. How to access the heart of her story?
2. How to get people to care about her story?
3. How to get people to identify themselves within the story?

She found her answers -
1. At the heart of it all was a love story in the time of war, the kind of love that serves to sustain a family during the most desperate of times.
2. To get people to care, touch the central places in all of our hearts - the human need for love, familial connection, hope and compassion.
3. Through the voice of a vulnerable child, the reader connects with their own vulnerability and joins her on the journey.

And she hopes that once she has her readers walking beside her, her cause will become theirs.

Her 3 key questions are a gift to anyone seeking to use words as a means for navigating the human heart’s avenues.

Beyond a pearl of literary wisdom, she went on to provide us the guideposts for the most perilous terrains of the human heart - the pathways marred by grief, loss and terror.

"Although I am strong outside, being strong has taken a lot of will and energy. Inside me was like shattered pieces of glass. Each day I would restore myself, gluing the pieces back in place. One day recently (while attending the Khmer Rouge tribunals in Cambodia) I suddenly felt that I was not going to shatter anymore. I was strong with less force and effort. Life is light now. The glue finally took hold.”

So she stands before us tonight as proof. It is possible, even after unthinkable catastrophe to heal, repairing oneself one bit at a time, over and over until eventually, the mending takes hold.

Please go to her website and learn more about her story and also opportunities to participate in helping others in a meaningful way.


  1. I'm going to Cambodia next week... thank you for the link! Greatly appreciated.

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  3. Anonymous12:50 PM

    Deemikay - Glad to be of help.