Sotheara Jeffrey Lim, 30’s
Cambodia Town, Long Beach, CA
I am a Project Manager working in Marketing. Currently, I'm overseeing Web product launches at Microsoft.
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
Culturally: Khmer American; Ethnically: Khmer, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
Tell us about your family story.
My mother's side is from Takéo province, which borders Vietnam. Though they only speak Khmer, ethnically they are Khmer, Chinese and Vietnamese. My father's side is from Battambang. His side is more Indigenous Khmer. My parents met in Long Beach, CA after coming here in the '80s. My mother was sponsored by family who had already been here before the war, while my father was sponsored by his mom whom he was separated from during the Khmer Rouge and came to America before him. I was born in Long Beach, CA and was raised here.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Khmer, Chinese, and Vietnamese?
The challenges of being Khmer are endless. The challenges range from battling generational trauma, navigating America w/ a lack of resources, not connecting to the greater AAPI narrative and identity. It's something that I battle constantly–having to justify my struggles as a Khmer person within the AAPI monolith to others.
The biggest strength is our resilience. The fact that as 2nd and 3rd generation Khmer Americans means that we come from a lineage of survivors – our families survived the Khmer Rouge. I keep trying to remind myself of that when I feel apathetic or the generational trauma sets in.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Breaking my cycles and identifying my trauma. This awareness of the self has given me valuable tools in my life.
Reflecting on how you grew up, what did you learn or appreciate from your family?
My family made it a point to teach me and my sister Khmer social etiquette. We know how to address people outside of the family. Doing the prayer hands when you see someone older. Bowing your head when you're walking across a room where older folks are congregating. This sense of manners really helped feel connected to my Khmer culture and something I hope I'm able to pass on to my children.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I'm able to fake it when I order food at a restaurant or ask people how are they doing, but generally no. My mom made it a point to only have me and my sister learn English, and as a result, I lost my Khmer. Later on in life, I realize that what she was doing was a coping mechanism to her trauma, which is survival by assimilation. She felt that in order for me and my sister to survive in America, we needed to assimilate. I unfortunately lost my family's native tongue as a result.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Khmer and Asian communities?
Uplift others. Break your cycle. Break your trauma. Our community is so small, and we can't afford to continue the bad habits that were set as a result from the Khmer Rouge. The more aware we become of our individual traumas, the more progress we will make as a Khmmunity.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Being a big brother and mentor to young Khmers and helping them navigate life. I'm the oldest in my generation of siblings and cousins, so I take the role of being the oldest very seriously. I find joy in being able to guide younger Khmers to better versions of themselves.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
Khmer Renaissance on my Instagram is my passion project. :)
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
Want to share your voice?
To be featured, read the directions and fill out this form. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome.
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