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Me and Ma – Putsata Reang


Holding what appeared to be a lifeless baby, Ma resisted the captain’s orders to throw her bundle overboard. Instead, on landing, Ma rushed her baby into the arms of American military nurses and doctors, who saved the child’s life. “I had hope, just a little, you were still alive,” Ma would tell Putsata in an oft-repeated story that became family legend.

Over the years, Putsata lives to please Ma and make her proud, hustling to repay her life debt by becoming the consummate good Cambodian daughter, working steadfastly by Ma’s side in the berry fields each summer and eventually building a successful career as an award-winning journalist. But Putsata’s adoration and efforts are no match for Ma’s expectations. When Putsata comes out to Ma in her twenties, Ma tells her it’s just a phase.

When Putsata fails to bring home a Khmer boyfriend, it’s because she’s not trying hard enough. When, at the age of forty, Putsata tells Ma she is finally getting married—to a woman—it breaks their bond in two. In her startling memoir, Putsata Reang explores the long legacy of inherited trauma and the crushing weight of cultural and filial duty.

With rare clarity and lyric wisdom, Ma and Me is a stunning, deeply moving memoir about love, debt, and duty.

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