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2018, A YEAR OF GIFTS

Phina So
December23/ 2018

2019 is soon approaching while we are preparing to say good bye to 2018. I reflect back on my 2018 and one thing I want to share is about a fact that I have received so many gifts from friends everywhere. One of gift genres is book. This blog I write about those gift books.

A Little Life was a gift book given to me by Chath Piersath, an independent visual artist, a writer, and a poet. I was in Paris in late 2017. When I was there I noted that there were a few Cambodian friends also in Paris. So, I arranged for a meet up. The meeting was one of the most highlighted day in my life. All 6 of us: Jean-Baptiste Phou, Neang Kavich, Chath Piersath, walked through the Parisian charming street read and discussed a piece of Soth Polin’s writing, an forever favorite Cambodian author to me and too many others. After that we went on to a book store called ‘Shakespeare and Company’ which is located in the heart of Paris. Chath guided me through the bookstore. Finally, he bought me this book written by Hanya Yanagihara.

I had just finished reading it recently after about 5 week intensive reading. It is one of the saddest book I’ve ever read. It is about four friends whom of them Jude hides his trauma all of his life until the end. I like the plot the writer plays. It hooks you to every chapter which a question ‘What had happened to him?’ What’s a great piece!

Another gift book is ‘Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods’ written by Tishani Doshi. It is a gift from Frances Rudgard. She went to the book launch and even asked the poet to sign an autograph on the book for me. What’s a kind and thoughtful gesture. I felt I’m truly blessed.

This book really has an impact on me. One of the poems is ‘To My First White Hair’ which tells about the relationship of the writer and her first white hair. This led me to keep my white hair. Before reading this poem, I always get rid of the white hair. I at least feel that white hair embarrasses me. But not at all after reading it. Thank you poem that teaches me how to love myself even better. This one also teaches me to realise that poems are very dangerous because you can be a different person after you read just a single poem.

Another book is ‘Cat Poems’ by the world’s great poets all about cat. It was a gift from Vong Socheata, my dear friend, who is a heavy reader, arts lover and supporter, and a popular political analyst. It is all poems written about cat. As a cat obsessed lover, it is so much fun reading the book.

Another gift books is from Catriona Miller. I’ve received three books. One of which is ‘In the Shadow of the Banyan’ written by Veddey Ratner. I have always wanted to read this book very much. Fortunately, Catriona posted about giving away books and I got not one but three which I very much look forward to read them in the meantime. The ‘In the Shadow of the Banyan’ is a story of a young Khmer princess who witnessed her family ordeal throughout the Khmer Rouge time. Her father was a Sisowath prince (which made her Sosowath princess) was a great poet whom she admires the most. Her relationship with her father was​ an intense love and true admiration. Though I haven’t finished the book, I have found one founded poetry. I’m going to finish soon.

The last book is from Myanmar brought to me by Ma Thida, a writer, a social activist, and a board member of PEN International. We met for the first time in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. The book is ‘Of Peaceful Days’ co-written by four Burmese writers two of whom I know including Ma Thida herself and Han Zaw, another visual artist and writer friend from Myanmar. I’ve just started to read the first few pages. The first story is about the old days where interfaith was peaceful and a normal daily life that Myanmar people celebrated. According to the writer, she seems to send a message that unlike today that religion is used for dividing people in stead of embracing harmony and peace. I really can’t wait to read the rest.

Besides books, there were so many gifts I had received. A necklace from Luang Prabang, a green milk tea from Taiwan, a scarf and a yellow dress from India, Thanaka powder from Yangon, Myanmar, a table and a cup from Hanoi, Vietnam, coffee from Ho Chi Mich city, lend books (which I also consider them as gifts also) and most important of all are countless lipsticks brought to me everywhere by my love. Have I forgotten any?

All I can say is 2018 is the year of gifts, friendship, and knowledge.