INVISIBLE: Surviving the Cambodian Genocide by Frances T. Pilch is a most unforgettable read. I edited this book last summer, and the pictures in my mind may never go away... and I wasn't even there to experience the genocide first-hand. Sometimes I wonder what gives human beings the endurance, motivation, and will to live so strong that it makes them survive what seem like totally unendurable situations. But Mac and Simone Leng not only kept themselves going but also made sure their three children survived.
Sometimes when I face my own personal challenge of too much food (yes, we always have too much food in our house), I think of the extreme contrast to the conditions during the Cambodian Genocide when Simone would find something in nature to feed their starving bodies that most people would never think edible, but it was. I would have to go back and read the book to find what exactly they ate, but those details don't seem important to me. It is the feeling I get when I think about reading this memoir that is important. A feeling of admiration, of awe, of absolute amazement coupled with extreme gratitude that I personally have never had a day in my life where I didn't have enough food to eat and when I wanted to eat. Yet the totally ironic part of this whole thing is that I have a fear of being hungry. Why? Maybe people who believe in reincarnation say that I, too, have experienced something similar to what the Leng family endured and survived.
When I was editing this book and got to the sentence where they said they arrived in California, I burst into tears of joy and relief. "We arrived in Long Beach, California, on July 21, 1979."
How so many refugees who come to our country must feel... I can only imagine. It is very easy to be critical of our country, especially in our current climate where refugees aren't as welcomed and integrated into our society as the Leng family was in 1979. I wonder if every politician read this book if they would have a more compassionate attitude toward immigrants, and admire the strength and inner grit a person has to have to survive conditions unimaginable to many of us and then manage to get to our country. I have utmost admiration for the Leng family and believe anyone who reads this book will also come away with feelings of awe and admiration similar to mine.
I wonder how this book affects college students who read this as a course book. I took cultural anthropology fifty years ago, but I never read anything like this before. I am so very pleased that our author Frances T. Pilch wrote this memoir about this important subject and Mac and Simone Leng's story gets told. It seems it would fit in so many college courses: anthropology, history, wherever war is studied, psychology, politics, and where else? I am very proud that we published this book.