Upcoming Event: Katya Cengel & Robert McNally on the Refugee Story

Join UC Berkeley Extension on Thursday, September 30 at 6:00 p.m. PST (8:00 p.m. CST) for an engaging virtual discussion on refugees, trauma, and collective versus individual truth. Who has the right to tell a story?

Register for this event here!

Cannes Film Festival standout “Blue Bayou” brought the story of the deportation of Korean adoptees in America to the world over the summer. Now the drama of a Louisiana family battling to stay together after their Korean American patriarch is detained by ICE is playing in U.S. theaters. “Blue Bayou” ends with a list of names, the names of other adoptees facing exile from the only home they have ever known, a home they found after war tore their country apart. It is a story repeated in Asian American communities across the nation: refugees of war fighting deportation. But those from Cambodia faced an additional trauma – genocide.

In Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back journalist and U.C. Berkeley Extension writing instructor Katya Cengel follows the stories of four Cambodian American families as they confront criminal deportation forty years after their resettlement in the United States. Their stories begin not with their resettlement in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s but with the genocide they survived under the Khmer Rouge, a Marxist power that wiped out from 13% to 30% of the Cambodian population. Sieu Sean Do tells that part of the story in his memoir A Cloak of Good Fortune, which chronicles his survival of the Killing Fields.

Written by a survivor and an outsider, Exiled and a Cloak of Good Fortune raise the question, who has the right to tell a story?

Cengel and Sean talk about the different perspectives they present and the benefits and shortcomings of each. They will also talk about chronicling trauma and individual and collective truth. Cengel will explain the legislation that allows for the deportation of refugees, adoptees and other immigrants. Robert Aquinas McNally, author of The Modoc War (Bison Books, 2017), which chronicles another genocide, that of the Modocs in California, will moderate the discussion.

Writers, scholars, historians, fans of “Blue Bayou” and others are all welcome to join this timely talk.

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