Archive for the ‘Cambodian Culture in America’ Category

As promised, I’m now posting some short videos from the Tiger Girl launch party at Books Inc., including a short reading and excerpt from the Q&A, a song by the amazing Cambodian American singer Laura Mam, and a 30-second video that gives you a feel for the event!



Much thanks to everyone who came to the launch at Books Inc./Opera Plaza in San Francisco! And I hope these videos can give a feel of the event to those who could not come in person.

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Where would a Tiger Girl be without her Tiger Family? I was thrilled my family could come for the launch party at Books Inc./Opera Plaza in San Francisco!

I’ll be posting more “official” type photos of the book launch party (which was so much fun!) later, but for now I wanted to start with the people who’ve always been there for this tiger girl, my family. ūüėÄ

Gwynn-ariel-adelaide-jeni Jeff-evelyn-howard Jewel-Papa Laura-Mam-and-Ariel Laura-Mam-singing

Me and Adelaide

Me and Adelaide

me-signing-sitting-up  Tiger-Girl-Launch-Books-Inc Tiger-Sign

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Here’s an sneak peek at TIGER GIRL, my new novel coming out in stores and online this October 7, 2013.

Check out this four-minute excerpt:

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I just received an advance copy of Tiger Girl, my novel that’s officially coming out this October!


My publisher, GemmaMedia, sent me a few copies in advance of publication so that I could see the cover and layout. I’m so excited!

It’s gorgeous! Much thanks to Howard Wong of Grace Image Photography in San Francisco for the cover design.


The story follows Nea Chhim, the protagonist of Dragon Chica, on a journey to find her biological father. They were separated because of war and the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. In Tiger Girl, Nea directly confronts her past and tries to reunite the multiple missing branches of her family. However, as is so often the case with good intentions, Nea’s quest does not turn out as she anticipated. To find out what happens, look for Tiger Girl in bookstores (or online) this October!

Mark your calendars: The book launch party will be held at Books Inc./Opera Plaza in San Francisco on October 26, 2013, beginning at 5 p.m. Cambodian American singer Laura Mam will be performing an acoustic set in Khmer and English!

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On this last day of APA Heritage Month, I wanted to remember the thrilling poetry reading I curated at SOMArts Gallery in San Francisco earlier this May. (These amazing photographs were taken by Shahrukh Faquih. See the full set here: Navigating the underCurrents)

We had such a great turnout for the AAPICC (Asian American Pacific Islander Culture Center) and AAWAA (Asian American Women Artists Association) co-sponsored event!

Poets wrote original poems inspired by an artwork in the “underCurrents & the Quest for Space” exhibition. SOMArts-bartender SOMArts-Calvillo-2 SOMArts-Calvillo SOMArts-crowd-2 SOMArts-crowd-mido SOMArts-crowd SOMArts-Frances-1 SOMArts-frances-2 SOMArts-guy SOMArts-Kimono SOMArts-Linda-Bory SOMArts-Ploy-2 SOMArts-Ploy SOMArts-Seigel SOMArts-Shiz-May-lee SOMArts-Shizue-2 SOMArts-Shizue SOMArts-Shobha-2 SOMArts-Shobha-3 SOMArts-Shobha-Ploy SOMArts-Shobha SOMArts-Susan-Amy May-lee-SOMArts

In several cases, the poets were able to meet face-to-face with the artists who created the works that inspired them.


There was an amazing group of poets who participated: Amy K. Bell, Susan Calvillo, Ploy Pirapokin, Shobha Rao, Shizue Seigel, Bory Thach, and Frances Kai-Hwa Wang. Their work represented many different forms of poetry–from narrative to language poetry.

It was a lovely evening!

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Save the date! I’m curating this poetry reading:

Poetry Reading: Navigating the underCurrents, May 15

What: Poetry Reading: Navigating the underCurrents

When: Wednesday, May 15, 7‚Äď8:30pm

Where: 934 Brannan St. (between 8th & 9th)

How Much: Free admission.

Bay Area author and international journalist, May-lee Chai curates this poetry reading inspired and surrounded by the socio-political visual art works during the underCurrents & the Quest for Space art exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center, as part of Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center’s (APICC’s) Annual United States of Asian American Art Festival.

The activist poets read their original poems in reaction to specific art pieces, challenging the status quo and proposing new aesthetic spaces. The reading, which will take place in front of the art piece that inspired each poet, will question our concepts and assumptions of gender, race, class, nationality, and the constructed femininity used to silence Asian American women throughout history.


Amy K. Bell writes fiction and poetry. Her chapbook, Book of Sibyl, is forthcoming from The Gorilla Press (thegorillapress.com). She studies writing at San Francisco State University’s MFA program and lives in Oakland. Find more of her work at amykbell.com.

Susan Calvillo is a Chinese- and Mexican-American poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in West Wind Review, New American Writing, Zyzzyva, LUMINA, Davis PoetryAnthology, Gesture Zine, and others. An excerpt of her Dual Duel poetry collection received an honorable mention from The Academy of American Poets for the Harold Taylor Prize.

Ploy Pirapokin is a Thai born, Hong Kong native, and an MFA candidate in Fiction at San Francisco State University. Her work will be featured in the sixth anthology of the World Englishes Literature series coming late 2013, and she has been accepted to the post-MFA summer residency at the City University of Hong Kong. She is now working on a collection of short stories grounded in Asia focusing on themes such as identity development, third world culture kids, and scary Asian parents.

Shobha Rao is currently pursuing an MFA at San Francisco State University. Her work has been published by Gorilla Press and in the anthology Building Bridges and will be forthcoming in Tincture. She was awarded the Gita Specker First Place Award for Best Dramatic Monologue by the San Francisco Browning Society in 2013. Previously she practiced as a lawyer in the areas of domestic violence and immigration law. She lives in San Francisco.

Shizue Seigel is a third-generation Japanese American writer and visual artist whose paintings, mixed media and photo collage explore complex intersections of history, culture and spirituality.  Her artwork has appeared in local, national and international group exhibitions. She authored In Good Conscience: Supporting Japanese Americans During the Internmentand her poetry and prose have been published in numerous anthologies.

Bory Thach was born in Khao I Dang, a refugee camp on the Thai and Cambodian border.  He is an Iraq War veteran and graduate M.F.A. student at California State University San Bernardino.  He enjoys writing fiction and poetry.  He currently lives in San Bernardino, CA.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang¬†is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawai‚Äôi.¬†She was the arts and culture editor of IMDiversity.com Asian American Village, wrote a nationally syndicated column called ‚ÄúAdventures in Multicultural Living,‚ÄĚ and is also a contributor for New America Media‚Äôs¬†Ethnoblog, Chicago is the World, Pacific Citizen, InCultureParent.com, and¬†HuffPost¬†Live. She is the author of¬†Imaginary Affairs‚ÄĒPostcards from an Imagined Life¬†andWhere the Lava Meets the Sea‚ÄĒAsian Pacific American Postcards from Hawaii, available at¬†Blacklava.net. Check out her blog at¬†franceskaihwawang.blogspot.com¬†and her website at¬†franceskaihwawang.com.


May-lee Chai is the author of seven books, including the memoir Hapa Girl, which was a 2008 Kiriyama Prize Notable Book, and most recently the novel Dragon Chica. A former reporter for the Associated Press, she is a frequent contributor to The Jakarta Post Weekender Magazine. Her fiction and essays have appeared in numerous journals, magazines, and anthologies. She is the recipient of an NEA grant in literature.


Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to ensuring the visibility and documentation of Asian American women in the arts. Through exhibitions, publications, and educational programs, we offer thought-provoking perspectives that challenge societal assumptions and promote dialogue. www.aawaa.net

Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) supports and produces multi-disciplinary art reflective of the unique experiences of Asian Pacific Islanders living in the United States. underCurrents is featured as part of Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center’s  (APICC) 16th Annual United States of Asian America Festival at SOMArts Cultural Center. www.apiculturalcenter.org

Pictured: Alexandra Lee‚Äôs ‚ÄúDo I Dare‚Ä̬†

(From the SOMArts web calendar. Written by Jess in News)

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I saw the cover for my new novel, Tiger Girl, for the first time this week. And it is GORGEOUS!

I’m so excited that I just had to share it with everyone!


TIGER GIRL is coming this October 2013 from GemmaMedia.

Tiger Girl continues the story of Nea Chhim, the heroine of my novel Dragon Chica.

Plot: Nea is struggling with college. Nightmares of war flood the waking memories of this 19-year-old survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields. Nea decides she must confront the past to overcome her fear and begin her own life in America.

Without telling Ma, she hops on a cross-country bus in Nebraska to see her biological father in Southern California. There Nea comes face to face with a man wounded by survivor’s guilt who refuses to acknowledge the family’s secrets. Nea decides to revive his struggling donut shop and help him recover. Her tireless efforts attract a mysterious young man’s attention. Is he casing the place for a gang? she wonders. It is up to Nea to find out the truth: about her family, the war that nearly destroyed them, and herself. Tiger Girl weaves together Cambodian folklore and its painful past with contemporary American life to create an unforgettable novel about love, war, and acceptance.

Advance praise:

“An original storyteller writing a book about the need for a young woman’s love, her cross-country journey that is also an inner journey, and her surviving, with others, a life they weren’t meant to survive. This is their story. I couldn’t stop reading. This is a writer to follow on her own journey of words.”–Linda Hogan, award-winning author of The Book of Medicines and Indios.

“Like many of her characters, May-lee Chai is a masterful storyteller with a poignant and gripping tale to tell. I couldn’t put TIGER GIRL down: I wanted to know what was going to happen next of course, but I also wanted to learn more about the past, to understand the painful and astonishing paths that led these people to find one another. Her book travels far and wide, but in the end it’s about families–not just the ones we’re born into but also the ones we make for ourselves. It’s enthralling and moving and fascinating and absolutely wonderful.”–Claire LaZebnik, best-selling author of If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now and Families and Other Non-Returnable Gifts.

The cover was designed by the talented Howard Wong of Grace Image Photography/SF.

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