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Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite
Under the Naga Tail: A True Story of Survival, Bravery, and Escape from the Cambodian Genocide is a work of non-fiction in the memoir, cultural and psychological subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience for its strong (though non-graphic) content and written by Mae Bunseng Taing with James Taing. As the title suggests, the work conveys the harrowing experience of living through the regime of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, detailing the life of the teenage Mae as he faces wild landscapes to escape his captors. Eventually stranded as a refugee and separated from his family, Mae only has his faith in a brighter tomorrow to help him survive.
Mae Bunseng Taing has partnered wonderfully with his son James Taing to bring this heartfelt and emotionally raw story to life. It encapsulates the life-threatening tension and constant strain in the atmosphere when a person must live under such extreme and fearful conditions. And yet, there’s a beautiful tenderness to the narrative that allows Mae’s bright personality to shine through, offering perspectives of incredible hope and light despite the dark times of his youth and formative years as a young adult especially. This story provides a deeper understanding of the horrifying realities of the Cambodian genocide, allowing privileged readers a better grasp of these incomprehensible horrors. I recommend that people from all walks of life read Under the Naga Tail for its accomplished writing style and to improve their cultural awareness.