Ohio author pens poignant tale of loss and discovery in new book

Ira Sukrungruang is Kenyon College professor and author of "This Jade World."
Caption
Ira Sukrungruang is Kenyon College professor and author of "This Jade World." CONTRIBUTED.

Credit: Ira Sukrungruang

In October, Ohio author and professor Ira Sukrungruang will release his latest book, “This Jade World.”

For over two decades, Thai-American author Sukrungruang has been writing about topics that have shaped his identity, like the Thai-American experience, his relationship to his body and Buddhism. The Delaware, Ohio resident is the current Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College. Sukrungruang is the author of five books, including American Book Award winner “Southside Buddhist,” as well as “Buddha’s Dog & Other Meditations,” “The Melting Season,” “In Thailand It Is Night” and “Talk Thai: A Memoir of an Immigrant Son.”

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In his latest book, Sukrungruang hopes to turn the divorce memoir genre upside down as he discusses how Asian American stereotypes impacted his relationship with his ex-wife. On his 12th wedding anniversary, Sukrungruang received a letter from his former partner, asking for a divorce. After feeling as though the request came out of left field, he began writing down his feelings regarding their split.

Over five years later, Sukrungruang’s writings have been made into a memoir that follows the author through years of healing, exploration and self-discovery. A large part of this self-discovery has been reflecting on the “sexless” stereotype that often plagues Asian American men.

“The sexless Asian man stereotype is prevalent because, for a long time, the Asian man was seen as almost effeminate without a sex drive,” Sukrungruang said. “Now, if you look at Asian history, especially Thai history, a country that was polygamous for a long time, that is not true. We’re trying to right a narrative that informs the stereotype that pervades the culture, right? About Asian men and the idea of sex drive. I always tell my students to write a counter-narrative to what people expect. (So), I wrote a counter-narrative of the divorce story that argues against the stereotype of how an Asian man is seen.”

Though it was never something that he outright acknowledged, Sukrungruang does admit that this “sexless” stereotype did often exist in his subconscious, altering the way he viewed intimacy in his previous relationships.

A large part of “This Jade World” is dedicated to his frequent trips to Thailand throughout his split from his former partner and journey into a new life.

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The cover of Delaware, Ohio author Ira Sukrungruang's book, "This Jade World."
Caption
The cover of Delaware, Ohio author Ira Sukrungruang's book, "This Jade World." CONTRIBUTED.

Credit: Ira Sukrungruang

Credit: Ira Sukrungruang

“I think I go back because it’s such a Buddhist country,” Sukrungruang said. “Because I was raised Buddhist, my trips to Thailand are almost like the moment I slow down. I’m able to look clear into myself than any other time when I’m here. We live in a culture that is just moving at a breakneck speed. When I’m in Thailand, that speed slows down considerably. I think it makes me a lot more reflective. Especially during that time period, my trips to Thailand after the divorce were essential in the writing of this book.”

While writing his book, Sukrungruang was constantly inspired by his students’ creative energy and desire to find beauty in everything.

“I always tell my students to find the art that saves your life,” Sukrungruang said. “I think writing is the thing that saved my life, especially writing this book during this period of my life.”

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“This Jade World” will be available to purchase on Amazon beginning October 1. In the meantime, Sukrungruang suggests reading and supporting the creative work of other Thai and Thai-American authors, like short story writer Rattawut Lapcharoensap, novelist Sunisa Manning, and nonfiction writer Ploi Pirapokin.

More information about Sukrungruang can be found by visiting his website.