A Refugee's American Dream: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to the U.S. Secret Service (Hardcover)

A Refugee's American Dream: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to the U.S. Secret Service By Leth Oun, Joe Samuel Starnes (With) Cover Image

A Refugee's American Dream: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to the U.S. Secret Service (Hardcover)


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“I saw many killed. I almost starved. But I escaped to refugee camps in Thailand and eventually made it to the U.S.” Thus begins Leth Oun’s poignant and vivid memoir. A survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields—having spent a torturous three years, eight months, and ten days imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge—Oun thrived in America, learning English, becoming a citizen, and working as an officer in the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division. 
In A Refugee’s American Dream, Oun shares hard memories of Cambodia, where his father was executed, and his family enslaved in labor camps. 

Following the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Oun survived a year of homelessness then nearly four years in refugee camps. Arriving in America, 17 and penniless, Oun struggled, washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant for $3.15 an hour. Still, he persevered, graduating from Widener University and completing thousands of hours of training to pursue a career in the Secret Service.

While on President Obama’s protection team, he returns to Cambodia after 32 years, reunites with family, and bonds with Reik, the Secret Service dog he handles. Through his most difficult moments, Oun displays truly inspiring resilience that ultimately leads to great achievements.

The authors’ proceeds will go to help Cambodians in need

Leth Oun, a native of Cambodia who survived the Killing Fields, is a veteran United States Secret Service officer. He has protected presidents and vice presidents in four administrations in forty-nine states and more than a dozen countries. A political refugee who immigrated to Maryland in 1983, he became an American citizen in 1990. He is a 1998 graduate of Widener University where he majored in sociology and minored in criminal justice. Before going to work for the federal government in 2000, he held numerous jobs that ranged from working as a bank teller to clerking at convenience stores to washing dishes for $3.15 an hour. He and his wife, Sophy, also a survivor of the Killing Fields, have been married since 1985 and have two grown children.

Joe Samuel Starnes has published three critically acclaimed novels, including Fall Line in 2011, which was selected to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Best of the South” list. His most recent novel, Red Dirt: A Tennis Novel, was released in 2015. His first novel, Calling, was published in 2005, and was reissued in 2014 as an e-book by Mysterious Press.com/Open Road. All three novels are highlighted in a critical essay in Twenty-First-Century Southern Writers: New Voices, New Perspectives, which was published by the University Press of Mississippi. He has had journalism appear in the New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, and various magazines, as well as essays, short stories, and poems in literary journals. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia, an MA in English from Rutgers University–Newark, and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College.

Product Details ISBN: 9781439923368
ISBN-10: 1439923361
Publisher: Temple University Press
Publication Date: February 10th, 2023
Pages: 292
Language: English
"That one person could go from a little boy too afraid to show fear to a man who protects presidents is an incredible journey by anyone’s standards” . . . A “remarkable life."Philadelphia Inquirer

“A harrowing yet inspiring and upbeat survival story . . . A truly heartening story of sheer determination and the will to survive and thrive.”Kirkus Reviews

“Leth Oun’s dramatic past is similar to mine and millions of other Cambodians who went through that dark period in the seventies. Today, we might be happy, but deep down in our hearts, the wound of that dark age remains. I highly admire Leth who has not only achieved his American dream, but also his effort to put the pieces of his traumatic experiences together in this beautiful book.”His Excellency Chhea Keo, Cambodian Ambassador to the United States

“Leth Oun’s moving story is deeply inspiring. He went to hell and back, and now embodies the American Dream.”Maria Goodavage, author of New York Times bestseller Secret Service Dogs: The Heroes Who Protect the President of the United States

“Leth Oun is our Superman. He has overcome the kryptonite of a genocide and rose as a superhero for Cambodians everywhere.”Kosol Sek, Managing Director, National Khmer Legacy Museum

“Through smooth and unflinching prose, A Refugee's American Dream reveals a remarkable story of human loss, endurance, and resilience.”Sara Nović, bestselling author of America Is Immigrants, Girl at War, and True Biz