Imagine a man who, out of desperation, eats his own children and feels justified in doing so. Imagine an island composed entirely of corpses—decaying bodies piling higher and higher by the day. Imagine having to eat feces and drink urine for nourishment. Imagine the killing fields, walking one foot in front of the other to avoid land mines. Imagine living constantly in fear, treated no better than a beast of burden. Can you imagine being left for dead, forgotten and ignored by the whole world?
Such were the circumstances for those captured and abused by Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge. Jennifer Lau, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, recounts the atrocities of this genocide with startling clarity. In the miracle that her memory, her language, and her spirit remain unbroken, we learn how she and her family survived. Beautiful Hero is a story of profound love in the midst of chaos. A story of hope out of unfathomable despair. The story of Meiyeng, Lau’s heart-of-stone mother—the eponymous Beautiful Hero, whose courage is enough to free an entire family from the depths of hell itself.
Not only is this a paean for a mother whose fortitude kept together a family in the midst of chaos. This is also a tribute to those who lived and suffered through the regime—and a memorial for those who lost their lives. The lives captured in Beautiful Hero are each presented with dignity, despite circumstances of unthinkable abjection.
Beautiful Hero stands as a testament to resilience in the face of trauma. This, above all, is a reminder that the heroes in our lives, through their silent sacrifices, preserve for us our psychic continuity and well-being.
We are here now. We have survived and continue to thrive. For this we should all be grateful. Perhaps we each have a beautiful hero to thank for this.