By Diane Allford
For our second installment of the In Conversation series with the fellows of the Weeksville Arts Residency, I met with Sokunthary Svay, writer, poet, musician, City College grad student, and newly-minted 2017 Willow Books Emerging Writer. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand after her parents escaped the forced labor in the rice fields under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, Sokunthary’s family left in the 1980s and Sokunthary was raised in a New York City housing project in the South Bronx.
On a warm sunny afternoon in the atrium of the Weeksville Heritage Center, Sokunthary talks with me about her poem, “At Least Prostitutes Bring Home Money”, and the inspiration behind it—her very own mother!
Sokunthary also speaks frankly about growing up in a patriarchal home with her “emotionally detached” family in the Bronx, where she observed her parents’ interactions and navigated a complex relationship with her mother that exists to this day. Finding her way through high school in search of her identity as a Cambodian girl, Sokunthary discovered new worlds and career options through music and art. As an adult, she adapts to life and love as a woman and new mom suffering from postpartum depression.
Our conversation was scheduled to last about 15 minutes, but we ended up chatting for over 40 minutes. Once we got started, it was difficult to stop, and that was only for a brief moment to capture the rest of our exchange on video.
Meet Sokunthary Svay—watch and listen to her as she shares her amazing and inspiring story in this audio podcast and video recording.