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Writing for Raksmey: A Story of Cambodia

2018 - Shortlisted


Judges comments

Nearly 30 years ago, Joan Healy, a Sister of St Joseph, arrived in Cambodia to help refugees from ‘the killing fields’. In Writing for Raksmey, she chronicles her interactions with the individuals she met then and has maintained contact with since. Based on her diaries, memories of those times, and her continuing relationship with Cambodia, this powerful book is a record of — and a reflection on — Healy’s encounters with heroic and resilient men, women and children in the face of horror. 

Though readers of this book will often find the word ‘I’, this is a memoir without ego: there is no photograph of the writer. The author is not merely a camera, however, for the writing reveals her compassion, her courage and the depth and ethics of her thinking about her role, in the midst of real danger. This remarkably self-abnegating memoir pushes the boundaries of the western biographical tradition, and shows how the memoir can provide a framework for relating something much larger. It is a life and a story that Australians need to know.