Award-winning author, journalist to give talk as part of Wright State’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration

Putsata Reang will discuss the experiences shared in her memoir, “Ma and Me,” on April 4 at 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Atrium. (Photo by Kim Oanh Nguyen)

Growing up in a Cambodian American refugee family while coming to terms with one’s queer identity is the subject of a memoir by Putsata Reang, an award-winning author scheduled to visit Wright State University in April.

Reang’s talk will focus on experiences shared in “Ma and Me,” a memoir exploring her reckoning with the debt and duty she feels she owes her mother, versus her own desire to claim selfhood. The memoir won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award in 2022 and was a finalist for the Dayton Peace Prize in 2023.

Reang’s lecture will take place Thursday, April 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Atrium on the Dayton Campus. The talk is free and open to the public. A book signing and reception will follow.

“She has a wealth of experiences in so many areas, professionally and personally, offering students a chance to learn so much more than they can from just reading her work or learning about her in a classroom,” said Nicolyn Woodcock, Ph.D., assistant director of Wright State’s Asian and Native American Center.

As a literature student herself, Woodcock said she often wanted to be able to ask an author about decisions they made or narrative gaps.

“Reang will be here and we can ask those questions,” she said.

In addition to the talk, Reang will spend the day at Wright State visiting with students from the Asian Student Association, Rainbow Alliance and The Wright State Guardian and an intercultural communications class taught by Jung-Soo Yi, Ph.D., professor of communication and associate chair of the School of Social Sciences and International Studies.

Community members can engage with Reang’s writing during the Silent Book Club on Wednesday, April 3, at 2 p.m. in 023 Student Union. Organized by the Asian and Native American Center, LGBTQA Center and the Women’s Center, the book club will provide time, space and quiet company to read or listen to Reang’s writing, including her memoir and shorter pieces, such as “At Sea, and Seeking Safe Harbor,” from The New York Times’ “Modern Love,” and “What I Hope for Afghan Refugees,” from Politico.

Reang’s talk will kick off Wright State’s celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in April.

Additional highlights include Asian Culture Night on April 5, featuring performances, food and fun organized by the Asian Student Association; and a “dinner and a movie” gathering on April 12, beginning with a cherry blossom viewing picnic, followed by a screening of “Joy Ride.”

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is observed nationally in May, but Wright State students will finish the semester at the end of April.

Reang has lived and worked in more than a dozen countries including Cambodia, Afghanistan and Thailand. She has degrees in journalism and English from the University of Oregon. She worked as a reporter for major metropolitan newspapers including the San Jose Mercury News and The Seattle-Times before moving abroad to train journalists in investigative and political reporting in conflict and post-conflict countries.

Reang is an alumna of writers’ residencies at Hedgebrook, Mineral School and Kimmel Harding Nelson, as well as the Jack Straw Writers Program. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Politico, Ms., and the Guardian, and she has been anthologized in essay collections that highlight women’s and Khmer voices.

Reang’s talk is organized by the Asian and Native American Center in collaboration with the College of Liberal Arts and with support from Wright-Patt Credit Union.

For more information, contact the Asian and Native American Center at

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