Born in 1962, Sarith Peou is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975-1979) in which more than one quarter of the Cambodian population was killed. In 1982, Sarith fled to a refugee camp in Thailand. In 1987, he resettled in southern California, and in 1993, he moved to Minnesota. He is now serving prison time in Minnesota. While incarcerated, he converted to Christianity, and earned a GED and an Associate of Arts degree. He has dedicated his life to education, and moral and spiritual transformation within the prison. He is completing his autobiography, tentatively titled Prison Without Walls.

Ed Bok Lee is the author of Real Karaoke People, winner of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and Asian American Literary Award (Members’ Choice Award).

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Corpse Watching
by Sarith Peou • 2007 • [out of print]
Forward by Ed Bok Lee
Designed by Lian Lederman

In Corpse Watching, Sarith Peou offers witness to the Cambodian holocaust of the late 1970s, which he survived, in language at once dispassionate and evocative. Upwards of a quarter of all Cambodians died between 1975 and 1979: “The river is swollen / The current is strong / Corpses float by all day long.” As poet Ed Bok Lee writes in his forward to the book, “Beyond telling, in total, a personal story of devastation under Angkar, these poems serve as steadfast interpreters for a multiplicity of voices and intensely human emotions still seeping out of that nation’s deepest wounds.”

from “My Sister Ranchana”:

Mee was the name of the cadre who mistreated Rachany.
I named my new dog Mee.
I abused that dog.
I killed and ate it.
A few months later
Mee died from delivery complications.
I thought my curse had worked.
Now I feel guilty for misplacing my anger on my
poor dog.


Corpse Watching has been used as required reading at California College of the Arts.

Review by Laura Moriarty

Review by Barbara Jane Reyes

Review by Philip Metres

Translations into Vietnamese by Linh Dinh 1, 2

see also:

from Susan Schultz’s Tinfish Press: