Why Writing is a Form of Personal Therapy
by: Dana Hui Lim
How do you deal with the loss of a loved one? How would you mourn for the loss of your family? Who do you talk to when you have been lost in the depths of madness so complete, that it took over your entire country? You can quote the figures: two million people, a quarter of the population fell victim to starvation or outright murder. The numbers are awful, but you know that only another survivor could possibly understand.
And they’re not talking.
Everyone I knew until I was 18 went through the same ordeal, and to an outsider it is like it never happened. You can sit down to dinner with my entire family, and by the time dessert is served you will be none the wiser. When we found each other amidst the ashes of the Khmer Rouge, we said virtually nothing about what we had been through. Even my brother Huor, who is never without a story, gave us only the barest outline. I was married for nine years and my ex-husband is also a Khmer Rouge survivor. We never spoke about what had happened to us before we came to Australia, so an entire decade of our lives was not gone or forgotten, just ignored.
How then to deal with the memories? I could continue to shy away from them as I had for 25 years, or I could drag them out and hold them up to the light, examine them one by one and pour them out onto the page for all to see. My family avoids dwelling on the past, and I don’t blame them for that in the least. I couldn’t let it lie though, and so I chose to talk to anyone who might listen. If no one wanted to hear then that would be okay; at least I would not leave it all bottled up inside me, scratching at the corners of my mind.
It was once dangerous for me to speak but I am free now, and in the act of writing I have been able to say things that I wanted to for years, for decades in fact. It was as if I was able to let loose a scream of outrage for what happened to me, my family, and for anyone else who has not had the means to voice their pain. I would like to be a catalyst for conversation and that may cause tears to be shed, but that is not so bad. Some things are worth crying over, some things should be cried over. Forgetting the past would just add insult to injury, particularly when it is your own.
I have to live with the images of my past now. They are out in the open and I have sorted through them far too thoroughly for them to be quietly shut away again. I think I am the better for having written my book, but only time will tell.
In 1969 the small Asian nation of Cambodia was under attack: first by US bombers as the Vietnam war spilled over the border, and then by the Khmer Rouge as they began their brutal reign of terror. Under the rule of Pol Pot, ordinary city folk were driven from their homes and banished to labour camps that eventually saw two million people die. Darkness descended and “Year Zero” had begun.
Mother and the Tiger is the story of one small girl, who struggled to survive one of the most ruthless regimes in human history. Six-year-old Hui Lim was trapped by the madness around her and cast into a seemingly endless nightmare. Her family was cursed as a member of a hated ethnic minority and targeted by the murderous Khmer Rouge. To survive where so many others died, Hui had to tap an inner strength that she never knew she possessed. Despite her youth she was determined to find her scattered family, no matter the odds.
Her memoir of that brutal regime proves that even amidst the blackest depths of human depravity, hope can endure.
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Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG13