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U Sam Oeur was born in Svay Rieng province in 1936. He spent his childhood herding water buffalo and tending rice paddies in the Cambodian countryside. He was later educated under the French colonial system and selected to attend California State University in Los Angeles. While in the United States, he went on to receive his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1968, after which he returned to Cambodia and was part of the Cambodian delegation to the United Nations. During the Khmer Rouge regime, he survived by feigning illiteracy, but lost his twin daughters. A devout Buddhist, U Sam Oeur is the author of the bilingual collection of poems Sacred Vows. His memoir, Crossing Three Wildernesses, written with Ken McCullough, was published in 2005.