In 2000, Chanrithy Him published her memoir ‘When Broken Glass Floats,’ sharing the story of her life as a nine-year-old growing up under Cambodia’s most destructive communist regime, the Khmer Rouge.
Recently, her story has been produced as a part of a one-act play, ‘Four Children.’
“The play is about four children that suffer: one from Armenia genocide and one from the Holocaust in Poland, one from Sarajevo and the fourth one is me from Khmer Rouge,” Chanrithy Him said.
The 65-minute play premiered to the world Oct. 7 at Kansas City Actors Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, and ran until Oct. 24. ‘Four Children’ is scheduled for a stage run in late March in West Palm Beach, Florida. David Edelman wrote the play, adapting part of ‘When Broken Glass Floats.’
The performance features the reading of “heart-wrenching” stories in the diaries of four genocide victims and survivors: Dawid Sierakowiak, Vahram Dadrian, Nadja Halilbegovich and Chanrithy Him who was played by actress Kathleen Warfel.
“Kathleen performs an excerpt about Cambodian national anthem, and that really tackled the strings of my heart and I was just so emotional, I was shattered with emotion,” Chanrithy Him said in a recent interview by phone with VOA Khmer.
“For the first time since I wrote the book, I realized that I'm still grieving for Cambodia. Our country was destroyed because of these wicked leaders. Khmer leaders. U.S. leaders. Vietnam war. Whoever else involved and responsible for our suffering,” she added.
Born in Takeo province, the 56-year-old author arrived in the United States when she was 16. Her parents and siblings were among the 1.7 million people who died of starvation, overwork, disease and execution during the Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 1970s. Chanrithy Him said that the memoir, which took her five years to write, gives her a sense of justice and helps her and her peers heal.
“My book has been used by high schools, universities here in the US and overseas for different classes. It gave me a sense of justice. It has helped me heal. Child survivors like me and other Khmer survivors, we’re still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Chanrithy Him said.
She is working on turning ‘When Broken Glass Floats’ into a feature film. She said the effort to tell genocide stories, like ‘Four Children,’ is important in potentially holding leaders accountable and reminding the world that tragedies like the genocides in Cambodia, Poland, Armenia, and Bosnia can happen anywhere, anytime.
“For those who have been blessed to be spared of wars, of any kind of trauma, pick up a torch and help us. This is for the human family. We all want happiness. We love our family. We want to be happy. We want to be at peace. So join that fight,” Chanrithy Him said.