Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Traveling the Cambodian Genocide / Noah Lederman

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Travel Narrative

Approximate word count: 8-9,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
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“Noah Lederman writes the travel blog Somewhere Or Bust. His travel writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Economist, the Chicago Sun-Times, Islands Magazine, Draft Magazine, and elsewhere, including numerous blogs and in-flight publications. He is completing a novel about an infant survivor of the Cambodian Genocide and a memoir about his grandparents' lives in the concentration camps and his journey to uncover those stories.”


“Traveling the Cambodian Genocide is a collection of poignant travel essays and striking photographs from travel writer Noah Lederman. Lederman takes readers to the unexplored sites that the Khmer Rouge had once used to commit acts of genocide in the 1970s. But these essays go beyond revealing a sense place; they are moving profiles of survivors and the younger generation of Cambodians, who, decades later, are still impacted by the atrocities. While these essays deftly portray a people's search for justice, answers, normalcy, and opportunity in a country still rife with corruption and covered with land mines, the author reveals heartfelt moments of beautiful innocence and relentless optimism, allowing readers to laugh and believe in the nation's hopeful future. One third of all profits from this book are being donated to a charity that helps Cambodian children and families.”


For such a small book, the length of a long short story, there are a lot of subjects kicking around my head that I might discuss.

One is the nature of travel and travel memoirs. I think when most of us think of travel it’s the family summer vacation. (Yes, some of us travel for business, but that’s an entirely different animal most of the time.) Personal travel is going to have a goal, whether we’ve actually thought about it or not, of seeing new things, visiting friends and relatives, or “getting away” from our normal routines. A change of pace. For some, this list includes learning about something, possibly art, history, or just what it’s like in another country or a different area of our own. The travel narrative or memoir is a way to vicariously experience travel we’d like to do some day or wouldn’t do on our own due to financial or logistical reasons, or because doing so would take us too far out of our comfort zone. Cambodia has never been on my list of must visit places for all of those reasons, but I’m glad to have had a small glimpse of what visiting there would be like by reading Traveling the Cambodian Genocide.

The other things I keep thinking about are much more specific to this book. Many people of a certain age are at least vaguely aware that during the 70s when the US was involved in a war in Vietnam, the bordering countries of Laos and Cambodia were also at war. In these instances they were civil wars with the fighting between two groups within the country. We might also be aware of the issue of unexploded mines scattering the countryside in the aftermath and the dangers that implies.

Through this book, Lederman explores the ongoing effects of that civil war in Cambodia with a close-up look at the human costs, prompting and answering a couple questions in the process. What is life like for Cambodians today? What might the world do to help?

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four stars

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