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Bunkong Tuon's Biography

Color photography of Cambodian American writer and poet in black jacket, with glasses, standing in front of evergreen trees.

According to my Green Card, I was born in Battambang, Cambodia, in 1972. But my uncles and aunts disputed the year of birth. This is what war does.


I lost my mother to starvation and sickness during the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia. In 1979, my grandmother took me away from my father and carried me on her back as we crossed jungles and rivers to reach the refugee camps in Thailand.


I grew up on the East Coast in the 1980s.  I went to college on the West Coast.


I’m currently an associate professor of English at Union College in Schenectady, NY.  


I’m the author of Gruel (NYQ Books, 2015), And So I Was Blessed (NYQ Books, 2017), The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press, 2019), and Dead Tongue (Yes Poetry, 2020) with Joanna C. Valente. My prose and poetry have appeared in World Literature Today, Copper Nickel, New York Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, The American Journal of Poetry, carte blanche, Consequence, The Lowell Review, Diode Poetry Journal, among others. I am poetry editor of Cultural Daily.

My debut novel, Koan Khmer, is forthcoming from Curbstone/Northwestern UP.  


As a child survivor of the Cambodian Genocide, I write about this history and its impact on Cambodian Americans. It is a way for me to make sense of my life, my family, and my place in the United States. Writing is a way of mapping the coordinates of my being.

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