A Cloak of Good Fortune: A Cambodian Boy's Journey from Paradise Through the Kingdom of Terror
By Sieu Sean Do
Publisher: Hibiscus Press
Release Date: September 27, 2019
A Cloak of Good Fortune traces one Cambodian child's coming of age from the idyllic, peaceful years of childhood in rural Cambodia through his family's forced exile by the Khmer Rouge.
Sieu Sean Do was born in 1963 and grew up in Kampong Speu, a rural town about fifty kilometers outside Phnom Penh. The midwife declared Sieu Sean a rare family blessing because he was born inside the amniotic sac, and in Khmer folklore, the sac is believed to be a "cloak of good fortune" that brings good luck. No one knew then how much luck the family would ultimately need.
Sieu Sean Do was born in 1963 and grew up in Kampong Speu, a rural town about fifty kilometers outside Phnom Penh. The midwife declared Sieu Sean a rare family blessing because he was born inside the amniotic sac, and in Khmer folklore, the sac is believed to be a “cloak of good fortune” that brings good luck. No one knew then how much luck the family would ultimately need.
In A Cloak of Good Fortune, Sieu Sean shares unique childhood memories: trips to the town’s bazaar with his grandfather to celebrate Chol Chnam Thmey (Khmer New Year) where street vendors sold delicious food, exotic candies, and snacks; and listening to his grandmother recite ancestral Cambodian folktales steeped in Theravada Buddhism, an enchanted world-view that permeated every part of his family life. His father was a successful fabrics merchant wholesaler whose frequent business trips to Vietnam took him away from the family. His mother was a talented seamstress whose designs were sought by the wives of locals and foreign diplomats.
“From our balconies, we could see the Black Iron Bridge sitting above the Stoeng Prek Thnaot River. Beyond the bridge beautiful, thick, green vegetation spread across the land. Along the road people grew coconut, banana, papaya, guava, and mango trees. Cool breezes spread the rich scent of wild, fresh jasmine. It seemed we dwelt in a kind of paradise.”
In 1969, Sieu Sean and his family moved to Phnom Penh where their fortunes improved until the outbreak of civil war. At the age of twelve, his peaceful world turned into a nightmare as his family was torn from their home and forced into rural exile by the Khmer Rouge. “We lived on the street for about two months, scavenging food and water like wild animals. We traded our belongings and ate anything and everything to survive…” Sent to a labor camp in the Cambodian jungle, they endured dark years of violence, brutality, and starvation before making their escape to Vietnam.
A Cloak of Good Fortune is told from the innocent perspective of a child coming of age. It captures the simplicity and beauty of the pre-war mystical and magical Cambodian culture that blossomed between the French colonial period and the brutal terror of Pol Pot's reign. Sieu Sean’s triumphant memoir preserves the heritage, culture, and traditions of the country he loves.