New Brunswick, New Jersey – In his poem, “My Heart Leaps Up,” William Wordsworth famously wrote: “The Child is father of the Man […]” Wordsworth’s adage feels particularly applicable to Khiang H. Hei, who was born into a Chinese family in 1968 on Mao Tse Tung Boulevard in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where his grandmother had to flee from the Chaozhou region of the Guangdong Province in China. Because Hei’s family continued to speak the Chaozhou dialect, some Cambodians would always regard them as foreigners.
Between 1968 and 1981, when he turned 13, Hei was at or near the epicenter of several catastrophic historical events reverberating across Southeast Asia. In 1968, as the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army were launching the Tet offensive in neighboring Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge began their attempt to overthrow the Cambodian government.
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