Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English



First Advisor

Wilfred P. Dvorak


This paper describes my experiences in raising a child of another culture, acknowledging both the rewards and heartbreaks that go along with such a venture. The child, Mao Sam, a Cambodian boy, came into my life at a time when I was sure that I had finished with the task of rearing children, having already raised three biological children--all daughters. I will detail the changes in my life and in the life of my family as we cared for a child from another race, another country.

In the first chapter, I briefly describe Mao Sam's cultural background; I show his way of life in Cambodia before he came to America and contrast pre- and post-war Cambodia to provide a cultural background for Mao Sam's life. Then, in Chapter two, I look closely at Mao Sam's day by day experiences, both in Cambodia during the genocide and afterwards in this country. I examine the qualities in his character which enabled him to survive terrors beyond our comprehension. I still marvel at the fact that in spite of all he had endured, he was still able to smile and joke with his new family and friends and I am amazed that virtues like

gentleness and honesty are still part of his character. Finally, also in Chapter two, I describe the difficulties I encountered in raising Mao Sam. There were frequent cultural misunderstandings. His early life was not the life of an American child. Our food was different and this was an obstacle to overcome also. And finally, when he reached his teen years, life was every bit as difficult for him as it had been with my other children. I think it is necessary to point out that language was never a problem. There are happenings in life that transcend speech. We found ways to communicate that were very satisfying.



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