From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back

Katya Cengel tracks the lives of four families following the fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge.
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Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back.

Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back.

Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back
Katya Cengel
Potomac Books

In the years following the fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge, some 158,000 Cambodians—mostly poorly educated farmers—came as refugees to the United States, where most were given permanent resident status. Psychologically scarred by having witnessed mass murder, and with few government resources at their disposal, many fell into lives of poverty and crime.

In Exiled, Katya Cengel tracks the lives of four families, several members of whom, decades after their arrival in the U.S., face the threat of another wrenching rupture: deportation. Since 1996, the federal government has broadened its list of deportable offenses to include traffic violations and small-scale drug possession. Bouncing between the killing fields of 1970s Cambodia and present-day America, Cengel powerfully evokes how the aftershocks of trauma can span continents, nations, and generations.

A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Pacific Standard.

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