LH author shares story of her family’s journey to find freedom
By Leonardo Romero
La Habra Journal
La Habra resident Jennifer H. Lau released her autobiographical narrative “Beautiful Hero: How We Survived the Khmer Rouge” on October 13, 2016 after taking 15 years to organize, write, and edit her book.
The book depicts events that Lau and her family endured in order to survive the tragic 1975 Cambodian genocide where it’s estimated that close to two million died under the Khmer Rouge’s four-year reign, according to the United To End Genocide website.
Lau is the third of seven children, and was born in the Cambodian province
Battambang in January 1970. At the age of five Lau and her family were forced to evacuate from their home and move to a countryside concentration camp where her family of seven was split into three separate work camps. Her oldest brother Vunn Hong is proud of her for documenting their suffering in order for others to learn about and discuss this atrocity that has very little literature written about it.
“This was something that happened a while ago, and reflecting on it makes it seem like it was a nightmare,” said Hong. “I still remember the things she wrote about in her book happening back in Cambodia.”
The book opens with a chilling scene where Lau and her family are making their way through a mountain range covered heavily in landmines in order to get away from Thai soldiers shooting at them.
Writing about these traumatic events proved to be therapeutic for her. According to Lau, she felt a responsibility as a survivor to honor those who passed by telling their story.
The title of the book comes from Lau’s mother’s Chinese name Meiyeng, which translates to beautiful hero.
Throughout the book one follows the struggles Meiyeng faced getting her entire family through starvation, dehydration, and illnesses.
“I want people to read my story and walk away from it feeling the enormity of how blessed they are,” Lau said, “and with that feeling I hope that they help others in any way they can.”
Lau and her family eventually moved to Hudsonville, Michigan in September 1981 where her siblings and her worked in fields picking berries.
In 1983, they moved to California and have lived in La Habra since 1987 where her family owns and operates the Boston Donuts on Imperial and Idaho.
Lau graduated from Sonora High School in 1990, and then went off to UC Irvine where she graduated with two bachelor’s degrees in Chinese / Chinese literature and Economics. Today Lau is the president of the accounting and business consulting firm Topp & Lau Inc., in Santa Ana.
“If you think your life is hard then read other people’s life stories,” Lau said. “There’s always other suffering that can help you understand and get through your own struggles.”
During her time in college Lau began to realize that she should probably document her experience, but it wasn’t until early 2000 that she began writing her story down. In 2010 she had a rough draft of her book that was originally 450 pages. After several editing phases emerged the final draft at 350 pages. The book also includes photos of Lau and her family from 1981 to 2012.
According to Lau, writing this book was the most challenging thing she’s ever accomplished, because it was such a laborious and emotionally draining process.
The book has over 50 reviews on Amazon.com, and 90% of the reviews are five out of five star reviews. For more information on how to purchase a copy of Lau’s book visit her official website www.jenniferlau.net.