New releases on Southeast Asia

Cambodian-born American author and activist Loung Ung once said that writing her story saved her life. Following her heart-wrenching memoirs as a survivor of the Pol Pot regime, Ung returns with her third memoir, Lulu In The Sky, which alternates her early works with heart-warming and inspirational stories.

LULU IN THE SKY: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing and Double Happiness By Loung Ung 325 pages 525 baht at Asia Books

In 2000, Ung's debut best-selling memoir First They Killed My Father: A Daughter Of Cambodia Remembers (2000) introduced her to the American literary scene with a vivid memory of her childhood in Cambodia where she witnessed her family members killed by the Khmer Rouge. Her second book, Lucky Child: A Daughter Of Cambodia Reunites With The Sister She Left Behind, followed her life after she took refuge in the US when she was 10 while some of her relatives remained in her motherland.

Lulu In The Sky is about love and hope. Ung opens up her life as a woman with scars in her heart and shows us how love heals her soul, and leads her to the path of becoming an activist against landmines, a legacy that remains a life-threatening issue in Southeast Asia. Divided into three parts, the book moves between her life in the US and her visit to Cambodia. Ung also noted that her third book has been more carefully researched than her first two works, in which readers will learn more about Cambodian history and culture.

_ Yanapon Musiket

MALAYSIAN MAVERICK: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times By Barry Wain 370 pages 550 baht at Asia Books

With Malaysia's elections coming up soon, a thoroughly analytical book on the man who more than anyone else shaped the political reality of our southern neighbour during the past four decades has become topical. Barry Wain's Malaysian Maverick was first published in 2009, but the second run here is timely.

To briefly re-iterate the praises it has already gathered, the book comprehensively details the political life of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the grandson of an Indian immigrant and longest-serving prime minister of his country, which is in effect inseparable from the larger pictures of Malaysian politics in every dimension. For this edition Wain, a former Asian Wall Street Journal editor, adds a passionately argued 28-page preface in which he recounts the circumstances surrounding the original publication of the book _ a contentious issue in Malaysia _ and especially the reaction from Dr Mahathir himself.

The government of PM Najib Razak, Wain writes, considered banning the book in 2009, while Dr Mahathir did a double take by writing in his blog that he "reserved the right to sue" the writer over his alleged exposure of financial scandals detailed in the book but at the same time, to his credit, called for its release in Malaysia and announced that he didn't need "government protection" _ meaning censorship. Wain's preface also mentions Dr Mahathir's memoir, Doctor, and how this second edition has been modified to represent the ex-PM's view. In all, a must for enthusiasts of Southeast Asian politics and intrigues.

_ Kong Rithdee

THE BLUE DOOR By Lise Kristensen 294 pages 495 baht at Asia Books

In his book, Lise Kristensen assumes the voice of her 10-year-old self, as a child of a Norwegian couple living in Madiun, Indonesia, when the Japanese army arrived in 1942. Her father was taken away in a military lorry, and soon Lise and her mother were rounded up and shoved into a POW camp _ they would move from one to another over the next two years.

Sleeping on boxes, rats on the floor, fly-infested kitchens, rifle-wielding Japanese soldiers forcing the prisoners to bow _ Lise sketches the terrible existence of camp life that seems all the more harrowing because of the voice she's adopted for the narrative: that of a woman looking back on her own life as a girl who didn't grasp all the mystery and savagery surrounding her. "A man called Hitler," she remembers hearing someone say. But feeling without understanding is worse, and Lise the girl feels it all: the filth, the distress, the swarms of flies, the repulsion of seeing a fat rat with bread bits on its whiskers.

A quietly told personal story that echoes, once again, the loud atrocity of history, The Blue Door is lucid, frightening, and moving.

_ Kong Rithdee