Khmer Post USA Coffee Club at Lala Books

Khmer Post USA 2nd coffee meeting with the community was held on March 19, 2022 at Lala Books in Downtown Lowell, Massachusetts. The event was dedicated to Cambodian American authors & literacy arts. Honored guests who attended include Lynn City Council-at-large Hong Net who recently released a memoir called “Given a Chance,” Lowell City Councilor at-large Vesna Nuon, and Cambodian Parliament member living in exile Mu Sochua.

The group is holding the Cambodian American books on 3/19/2022. Photo courtesy by Lala Books.

Ten people attended. Everyone was excited and engaged. Laura of Lala Books was very warm and welcomed our group to her bookstore and said she is working on carrying more Cambodian American books. The group discussed the importance of parents being good role models for children in cultivating the love for reading, the lack of Cambodian American published authors and children books, and community volunteerism.

Councilor Vesna Nuon was asked to speak about the recent Lowell Mobile Library project, “part of the Community Preservation tax fund will go toward this project because books, many consider it a thing of a past.”

Nuon said, “we want to engage people with reading, but there is only one library in the entire city, certain neighborhoods don’t have access by transportation to get to the library, so with the Mobile Library program, we will bring books to kids and families in different neighborhoods to check-out and it’s free.”

Hong Net speaks about his book, “Given A Chance”. Photo by Seng Bunrong.

Hong Net presented his book “Given a Chance” which he wrote during the pandemic. It’s about his life, having survived the Khmer Rouge, then life in America, later he returned back to Cambodia to work for the United Nations and found himself living through the coup d’etat in 1998, then later he entered American politics. Net is the second Cambodian American descent elected as city councilor in the U.S, serving Lynn since 2012. He turned to a page in his book and read a quote from Buddha “No one can save us but ourselves, no one can and no one may, we ourselves must walk the path.” The book, he said, “it says a lot about we have to be strong, we have to speak up, we have to represent ourselves and our community in ways we can.”

Next, Joan Chun of Lowell based Cambodian American Literary Arts Association, joined via zoom from Colorado, said “CALAA‘s mission is to encourage story telling through writing, poetry, arts, and foods. By doing so, we hope it also promotes community healing.”  The Stilt House Zin issue #3, produced by CALAA was donated to our group. We quickly dived into the little book. It is a collection of short poems, community essays about their experience with food and culture, and expressive photo arts that explores the Cambodian American’s identity.

2nd Khmer Post USA Coffee Club held at Lala Books. Downtown Lowell, MA 3/19/2022. Photo by Sambath Bo.

Going around the table, everyone took their turn to speak. Remembering their journey to America, everyone had a story to tell. After the reign of the Khmer Rouge terror, hundreds of thousands Cambodian refugees came to the United States in 1980s, having lost everything and left with little or nothing on their back. Until today, some are still trying to escape the political persecution for opposing the government. One of the attendees, Seng Bunrong said, he and 10 others just came to the US one month ago, under political asylum. Things that he brought with him was a laptop, an iPhone, and two suitcases with warm clothes. Well, that was quite a different story than 40 years ago. “There was no iPhone or tablet back then, what did people bring with them?” Madam Mu Sochua asked.

Dr. Bob Ung recalled how he came to the US at age 11, with a little suitcase with a couple pair of clothes and a 6th grade school ID. Unfortunately, after 40 years he said only thing that remain is his ID card. “It might not seem a lot,” Madam Mu Sochua said, “but we have to lay down our roots…and it’s here in Lowell, although there are Cambodians living in many other places.” Lowell has the second largest Cambodian community in the United States after Long Beach, California.

Lynn City Councilor at-large Hong Net and Lowell City Councilor at-large Vesna Nuon chats. Photo by Khmer Post USA.
Hong Net signs autograph copy of Given A Chance for Madam Mu Sochua. Photo by Seng Bunrong.










Sambath Bo, one of the attendees said she was born in Texas and then came to Lowell as a small child, “it is interesting to collect those elements that they came with and learn the story about them,” as she is now the mother of 3, and trying to teach her children about her roots.

The group decided that a special project should be done to help tell our story. To do so, a call for action was done at the end of the meeting. An announcement was recorded in a video which said as result of the meeting, the group will take 3 actions as following:

  • The project name is: “I Came to Lowell…” in which we will collect personal objects and tell the story of individual refugees, when they first arrived in Lowell and have an exhibit at the Southeast Asian Water Festival this summer.
  • The group also picked out an existing project to support, a Mobile Library project that is expected to roll out at the end of April.
  • Khmer Post USA’s sponsored Monthly Coffee club will take place in other cities where the Cambodian people live.