When Putsata Reang was eight years old, she didn’t understand why her skin was brown when almost all of her classmates’ skin was white. So she put an eraser to her arm and began to rub, hoping to become white. A decade later, feeling disoriented by the dawning realization that she is gay, Putsata put a razor to her wrist. But ultimately she was too ashamed to end her own life. That’s because when she was a baby, and her family fled war in her native Cambodia, her mother had saved her life.
Today, an increasing number of Americans like Putsata are at risk of erasure because of external forces such as anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and internal forces, such as shame and discrimination. Putsata discusses the dangers of dwelling on differences and encourages audiences to share their personal stories as an antidote to erasure.
Putsata Reang (she/her) is an author and journalist whose debut memoir, Ma and Me, was awarded the 2023 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association prize for nonfiction and was recognized as a finalist for the 2023 Lambda Literary Award. Her writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Ms. magazine, Politico, and The Guardian. Reang has held several prestigious residencies and was a fellow of the Jack Straw Writers program and Alicia Patterson Foundation for journalists.
Reang lives in Seattle.