Author of the Month: Teri YamadaPublished: May 15, 2013
“Just a Human Being” and Other Tales from Contemporary Cambodia
Teri Shaffer Yamada, assistant professor, Comparative Literature and Classics
Published by the Nou Hach Literary Association this year, “Just a Human Being” and Other Tales from Contemporary Cambodia offers a collection of short fiction that depicts the social, political and economic challenges of life in contemporary Cambodia. The dozen tales provide humanistic insight into Cambodia’s world of rapid modernization since the 1990s as the economy begins to recover from decades of political turmoil and fiscal instability. Featured are titles like “Lord of the Land” and “The Boat” which offer allegories about the lingering traces of Khmer Rouge on 21st century social relationships and politics. The stories explore the theme of overcoming personal karma and reclaiming compassion in a desperate world of poverty. “These are the top prize-winning stories from the Nou Hach Literary Association’s journal,” explained the member of the university since 1988. “Our association is one of the longest running non-governmental organizations in Cambodia. Others usually fold after a few years. We’ve been up since 1992.” Yamada encourages the campus community to take a look at “Just a Human Being.” “The campus will learn about a part of the world like none other. It is neither Thailand nor Singapore. They will learn about a part of the world that has been through a serious conflict and is now rebuilding successfully. Any educated person interested in international studies or the humanities would gain something from reading this book. And, at $10, it’s a deal.” Yamada points out that all royalties from “Just a Human Being” support the Nou Hach Literary Association’s annual summer writer’s conference in Phnom Penh. “We have hosted a conference every year but once since our founding in 2002,” she explained. “Every year, it has gotten bigger and bigger. At times, there is standing room only. It is the only writers’ conference in all of Cambodia and, of course, admission is free.”
Yamada received her bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from UC Santa Barbara and her doctorate from UC Berkeley in 1985. She supervises the Nou Hach Literary project and was named in 2008 as the winner of the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award. She also is the author of Virtual Lotus: Modern Fiction of Southeast Asia. She will address a national seminar on the role of copyright in Cultural and Economic Development to be held in Phnom Penh in June.